Much of the criticism of President Obama’s remarks last week on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has centered on his call for negotiations to start with the assumption that Israel will return to the 1967 borders, granting the Palestinians a key concession before talks even begin.
But even worse for the Israelis are Obama’s faulty and irresponsible assumptions about Hamas. He thinks Hamas, in the space of a few months, can reform itself from a terrorist outfit into a legitimate and trustworthy negotiating partner for the Israelis. Here’s what he said in a press conference today with British Prime Minister Cameron.
I believe that Hamas, in its own description of its agenda, has not renounced violence and has not recognized the state of Israel. And until they do, it is very difficult to expect Israelis to have a serious conversation, because ultimately they have to have confidence that a Palestinian state is one that is going to stick to its — to whatever bargain is struck.
The clear presumption here is that once Hamas starts saying the right things, Israel should negotiate with it. The suggestion that there might be good somewhere inside the beast that is Hamas, of evil that can be changed with a few words or a piece of paper, has an obvious historic precedent.
Speaking before the British Parliament today, Obama referenced Winston Churchill several times. But Obama’s own outlook is that of Neville Chamberlain.
Obama must state that there can be no peace process until Hamas is out of the Palestinian government. To do otherwise is to try to negotiate the Sudetenland with Hitler.
The Israelis, of course, know better than to ever, ever trust the word of a group that sends missiles into its territory to kill innocent people and that foments terrorism within its borders.
Or that makes statements like these, as compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.
“We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood…We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”
– Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip commenting on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, May 2, 2011
“The lie of the Zionist Holocaust crumbles with countless holocausts committed by the Zionists in Beit Hanoun, al-Fakhoura school and other places in Palestine.”
– Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, speaking at a memorial service for Palestinians killed during the 2008 Israeli war in Gaza, January 6, 2011
“Palestine is Islamic, and not an Islamic emirate, from the river to the sea, that unites the Palestinians. Jews have no right in it, with the exception of those who lived on the land of Palestine before World War I.”
– Hamas official Halil Al-Hayya, Al-Hayat newspaper, November 11, 2010
It’s not as if Hamas is trying to hide what it is.
The assumption that an entity so evil can become something else is not innocence or wishful thinking. It is negligence and opportunism, committed by a president whose greatest sympathy is with the Palestinians, who has low regard for Israel’s leader, and who maintains only a perfunctory commitment to Israel’s safety.