Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mitchell heads to Middle East to initiate dialogue between Israel and Hamas.

It is being reported that Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is going to explore the possibility of bringing Hamas into negotiations with Israel.

Mitchell, on the first leg of a weeklong trip to the region, is scheduled to meet the President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo tomorrow. The Egyptians have been engaged in extensive talks with Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Although Mitchell has no plans to visit Gaza or to talk directly with Hamas in the near future, the Egyptians offer an indirect route to the group, which is classified by America as a terrorist group.

Mitchell will discuss with the Egyptians the immediate prospects of Hamas maintaining the current fragile ceasefire and is expected to open discussions about the long-term prospects for the group to become involved in more comprehensive peace talks.

This is a move which has been welcomed by Gerry Adams, who took part in negotiations with Mitchell that brought about the Northern Ireland peace deal.
In a peace process, the goal must be an inclusive agreement that is acceptable to all sides, is doable, deliverable and sustainable. That means enemies and opponents creating space for each other. It means engaging in real conversations and seeking real solutions. It means accepting that dialogue is crucial and that means recognising the right of the Palestinian people to choose their own leaders, their own representatives.

The Israeli government and other governments have to talk to Hamas.
All of us, here in the UK, remember Thatcher's ridiculous insistence that the government couldn't "negotiate with terrorists"; which always seemed to me to be a guarantee that the violence would continue. Indeed, it was not until the Tory government of John Major began secret negotiations with the IRA that the IRA announced it's ceasefire.

The situation in the Middle East is slightly different because Hamas have agreed to abide by any settlement which Fatah arrives at in negotiations with the Israelis as long as such a settlement is agreed with by the Palestinian people in a referendum.

However, even though Fatah are able to negotiate on behalf of Hamas and the people of Palestine, it is a further indication of Mitchell's seriousness that he is seeking to engage with them. And it is a welcome break from the stupidity of the Bush years that such platitudes as, "we will not negotiate with terrorists" appears to be being set aside.

In any peace negotiations one has to negotiate with ones enemies, no matter how unpalatable that may be. And the Obama administration are showing an admirable adult quality, which was lacking from the previous administration, when they put out such feelers.

It is always preferable to talk to the organ grinder rather than the monkey and, in this case, Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people, no matter how much the Israelis and others might despise that fact.

It is also worth noting that nothing extraordinary is taking place here, as Israel previously refused to negotiate with the PLO and Fatah, for very similar reasons to the ones they are now giving for refusing to engage with Hamas.

Just as Major sought to talk with the IRA, so Mitchell now seeks ways to open dialogue with Hamas. We should applaud the latter and hope that it is as successful in achieving peace as the former.

Click title for full article.

No comments: