U.S. Army: We must negotiate with Hamas

January 5, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Posted in International | 1 Comment

In what might be the finest example of Good Timing in modern media, the excellent Foreign Policy magazine has beefed-up its online presence and persuaded a host of smart, experienced and – most importantly – rational foreign policy experts to start blogging there. One example is Thomas Ricks, who has covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post and highlights this rather timely report from U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute:

The Army War College chose this week to release a report that has some surprisingly kind words for Israel’s foes in the Gaza Strip: “HAMAS’ political and strategic development has been both ignored and misreported in Israeli and Western sources which villainize the group, much as the PLO was once characterized as an anti-Semitic terrorist group,” writes Sherifa Zuhur, a research professor at the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. “Negotiating solely with the weaker Palestinian party-Fatah-cannot deliver the security Israel requires. . . . The underlying strategies of Israel and HAMAS appear mutually exclusive . . . . Yet each side is still capable of revising its desired endstate and of necessary concessions to establish and preserve a long-term truce, or even a longer-term peace.”

Whilst the report was written prior to recent events, some of its recommendations (starting on page 61) seem especially pointed in light of what’s happened since, and quite extraordinary when you consider the source. The main points can be summarised as thus:

  1. The United States and its allies need to abandon the policy of non-negotiation with Hamas and commit to a vigorous program of dialogue. The report notes that this will take years to complete but is “decidedly preferable to the enormous social and economic cost of militaristic group politics that have burdened the Middle East for 6 decades.”
  2. Since Hamas was democratically elected, it should be allowed to govern and fulfill its electoral promise to the people of Gaza.
  3. The six month ceasefire could’ve been extended through diplomatic efforts. Hamas wanted Israel to cease military strikes and incursions into Gaza, whilst Israel wanted rocket and mortar fire from Gaza to cease. The report argues that all Hamas needed was to prove to its people that the truce had brought tangible benefits. The U.S. and its allies, had they participated in negotiations, could’ve facilitated a deal.
  4. Whilst you’ll hear precious little about it in our media, there are groups within the Palestinian territories who are more extreme and behave less rationally than Hamas, and any Israeli effort to eradicate Gaza’s governing party might see those groups gain strength and prominence in the power vacuum which follows.
  5. Hamas must prevent its members and other groups from hostage-taking and Israel should be encouraged to release those considered to be political prisoners.
  6. Moderates on both sides should be strengthened, but a peace process will not advance if Hamas is isolated, with Fatah showered with all the attention.
  7. The parties should consider an internationalisation of Jerusalem to ensure access to holy sites.
  8. Some kind of incremental ‘right of return’ agreement should be reached between the two parties.
  9. Finally, Israel must dismantle its settlements along the West Bank and relinquish land in the Jordan Valley.

Whilst these recommendations do bear an uncanny resemblance to the longstanding liberal position on the peace process, I should reiterate that they don’t come from some peacenik pressure group or wooly-minded liberal think tank. No, they’re in a publication by an institute which specialises in “geostrategic and national security research and analysis”, and is part of an Army War College which boasts General/President Eisenhower, Tommy Franks and Richard Myers as alumni.

Whether you agree with their conclusions or not, I think we can all agree that the right will have a tough time selling it as the work of some appeasing, freedom-hating anti-Semites…

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  1. […] What’s more, some of the most credible advocates for dialogue with Hamas are those who’re intimately acquianted with Israel’s security concerns. One of them is Ephraim Halevy, former chief of Mossad, who advocates continuous and “indirect proximity talks” using third parties. Another is David Kimche, former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, who has insisted that Israel has ‘no choice but to talk‘ to its enemies. Other advocates include former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, Seymour D. Reich of the Israel Policy Forum and the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. […]


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