Israel’s Friendly New Negotiation Partners

From the May 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

The West naturally believes in the best of motives—at least, when it comes to terrorists. Terrorists really are reasonable people; the thinking goes. They are just trying to get their voice heard in the only way they are able. Given the chance—Western media seem to believe—terrorists will lay down their arms and become reasonable negotiating partners.

This has been the response, though somewhat tentative, in much of the media and diplomatic world to the terrorist group Hamas’s takeover of Palestinian politics in January. Just give them a chance; perhaps they will renounce terrorism and embrace politics as a means to their end. (Never mind that that “end” is the destruction of an entire people.)

The facts show, however, that Hamas’s political success has not moderated it, but emboldened it.

Hamas still refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, denounce the use of terrorism or give up its arms. And to confirm that its goal—the destruction of Israel—has not changed, Hamas has filled its cabinet top to bottom with actual, literal terrorists.

“[D]efying international pressure and confounding hopes that it would moderate its extremist stance,” the victorious Islamist group “nominated a cabinet whose senior members have all been jailed, deported and escaped Israeli assassination [for their roles in terrorist strikes against Israelis]” (Times, March 21).

The new cabinet was installed March 29 after being handily approved by the Palestinian Parliament the previous day. Of the 24 cabinet members, 19 represent Hamas—and it is not much of a stretch to presume the remaining five have considerable Hamas sympathies, having agreed to join the cabinet.

The new prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, was the face of Hamas during its election campaign. Haniyeh has been imprisoned twice, the target of at least one assassination attempt by Israel, and expelled from the Palestinian territories for his role in terrorist attacks. “Haniyeh has always favored violence over diplomacy, and said the Hamas wins in the municipal elections in 2005 were proof that the majority of Palestinians support terrorism against Israel” (Jewish Virtual Library). And this is the man who is meant to give a more acceptable image to Hamas.

Three other senior positions within the cabinet have been given to even more virulent hardliners. Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, is a firebrand hardliner known for his hostility to Israel and the United States. It was he who declared last year that the armed conflict that resulted in Israel’s “defeat” in Gaza will continue until Jews leave not just the West Bank, but all of Israel. This man is the Palestinians’ foreign minister.

The interior minister’s post has gone to Said Siyam, jailed four times by Israelis during the first Palestinian intifada—this individual is now in charge of Palestinian security services.

The new finance minister is Omar Abdel-Razeq, also jailed by Israelis—released (conveniently) the most recent time less than two weeks before being nominated for this post. Abdel-Razeq plans to commence a tour of Arab nations to secure alternative funding to fill the gap should Western donors cut off funding.

And these are the “politicians” that still give some people hope in democracy. Does this sound like a Hamas wanting to make peace with Israel?