Two top Egyptian officials called on Hamas to recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals Wednesday, the latest sign Arab governments are pushing the militant group to moderate after its surprise election victory.
Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce its violent ideology and recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid — the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise.Let me take a guess at what is going on here. A lot of people think the Hamas election is good because it brings clarity to the Palestinian situation. Why wasn’t there clarity before? Because Arafat played a double game that the pragmatists of the West were happy to go accept. He talked about peace to the West but at the same time indoctrinated Palestinian schoolchildren to idolize terrorists. He gave the West just enough talk about peace so that they could evade his terrorism, and that kept the money flowing into his Swiss bank account.
Mubarak's spokesman, Suleiman Awaad, also called on Hamas to recognize peace deals with Israel. Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "was able to change his position. There is nothing that prevents smart leaders from changing their positions to behave accordingly," Awaad said.
Arafat changed, but not essentially. He moderated his rhetoric for the West because it made him rich. But when he was offered a peace deal during the ‘90s, he ultimately walked away from it. He did not want peace with Israel.
Now Hamas is threatening the arrangement by being honest about their intentions toward Israel. They have removed the veneer of negotiations that allowed the pragmatists to evade reality. Their principles stand so naked before the world that even career diplomats in the State Department can see them.
Egypt and the rest of the diplomatic community want Hamas to declarify the issues again. They want Hamas to hang a veil over their ugliness so that everyone can resume pretending the bride is beautiful. The dollars will continue to pour in from the West.
I think those commentators who hail the Palestinian election as a victory for clarity are overoptimistic. They underestimate the pragmatists’ capacity to evade reality. All it will take is some nice sounding lie from Hamas for the diplomats to claim that they have changed.
"Nobody will talk to them before they stop violence, recognize Israel and accept (peace) agreements," Suleiman said. "These are radical people. But we have to try to convince them to change their position. It's still difficult to make them change 180 degrees ... This might take six months or more. We will try."
Six months is probably all the diplomats will need to make the issue unclear again. The State Department is not called Foggy Bottom for nothing.