October 6, 2006

Israel: Is There a Peace Process Anymore?

Good question. I think the answer, regrettably, is no.

At one time in my career dealing with Middle East issues, I was optimistic. Optimistic and probably naive - most of my time I spent dealing with Syria, Lebanese, Jordanian and Iraqi issues. By default, much of that involved Israel. During my involvement, we have seen agreements between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon (although this was later abrogated through Syrian intervention).

While I was the air attache at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus (1992-1995), we were very close to brokering an agreement - unfortunately those days have passed.

Since the Palestinian elections of January 2006 in which the Islamic Resistance Organization (HAMAS) won control of the government, the question has been, "Will Hamas recognize Israel?" Hamas, regarded by the United States as a terrorist organization, has consistently refused to recognize Israel's right to exist. This has led to almost complete isolation of the group by the Western world.

There have been several attempts to come with a workable solution to the impasse, some way in which the West can support the elected government of the Palestinians. No matter the wording or machinations, the bottom line is that Hamas will have to recognize Israel. None have worked.

Isma'il HaniyahAt some point, the "peace process" has come to a screeching halt.

I think that screeching halt was amplified today. Palestinian prime minister Isma'il Haniyah remarked repeatedly and heatedly, "I tell you with all honesty, we will not recognize Israel, we will not recognize Israel, we will not recognize Israel. We say we will be in every government, we will stay in the government."
(read article)

I think there is no doubt that Hamas has been emboldened by what many to perceive as Hizballah's victory over the Israelis in "
The Sixth War" this summer. Whether correct or not, Hamas is now of the belief that they can stand up against the Israelis. When, they might say, is the last time you heard anyone ask about Corporal Gilad Shavit?

At some point, the Israelis will have had enough with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The
Israel Defense Forces are looking to regain their fearsome reputation, and Gaza does not have the privileged status in the West that Lebanon does.

I think Hamas is playing a dangerous game.