Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hamas Begins To Bend, But Will It Break?

Reports today that, as a result of the financial and political pressure being applied by the US and the EU, Hamas is considering moderating its platforms to allow for direct talks with Israel without recognizing it. Such a shift falls short of the demands placed on Hamas by the members of the Quarter overseeing the stalled peace process.

While it's clear that, eventually, if Hamas continues to run the Palestinian government it will have to accept the reality of its situation. For now, however, a small shift towards the center is a welcome development. It's probably too much to expect that Hamas would be able politically to accept Israel's existence so quickly. But this is a step on which future negotiations can be built. Israel and the Quartet should, without completely releasing the frozen funds, reward Hamas for this step and convene face-to-face negotiations between Israel and Hamas as soon as possible. If Hamas is beginning to bend now, it's likely only a matter of time until it breaks completely.

1 comment:

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...


The claim here is an exquisite illustration of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, unless one can cite the causal mechanisms at work to justify the assertion that Hamas' political positions have been arrived at 'as a result of the financial and political pressure being applied by the US and the EU.' If one had been closely following the more sophisticated analyses of Hamas (e.g., in Middle East Report (MERIP), by Henry Siegman in the New York Review of Books, in and through Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin, remarks by Helena Cobban, Juan Cole, etc.), there would be no surprise at recent coverage of Hamas' positions here, indeed, there would be no need to invoke exogenous variables to account for their recent statements. An examination of the political evolution of Hizbullah in Lebanon would have provided a regional, timely, and felicitous comparison by which to delineate and predict possible paths to be chosen by Hamas. In sum, a more parsimonious explanation, (after Occam's razor), shorn of 'carrot and/or stick' assumptions and constitutionally reluctant to resort to exogenous factors when endogenous explanatory facts and phenomena suffice, can better account for Hamas 'accepting the reality of the situation.'

Incidentally, Helena Cobban has a helpful article on Hamas in the recent issue of The Boston Review, available online: