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McCain, Obama, and the Hamas Banana Skin
Added 2381 days ago in
Obviously the McCain spin was all about politics. But the substantive policy piece of this should not be ignored. As has been clarified on numerous occasions by Senator Obama, the candidates’ policies are identical on the issue of Hamas—a terrorist organization with whom there will be no engagement. That symmetry is rather a shame. Current policy, including toward Hamas, is not working. It is not delivering security to Israelis or Palestinians, not advancing the peace process and not contributing to overall re-stabilization in a dangerously radicalized Middle East. Israel is currently in the midst of considering Egyptian-mediated ceasefire possibilities with Hamas. Very senior Israeli officials and ex-officials, including ex-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, ex-National Security Adviser Giora Eiland, and former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, are advocating Israeli engagement, direct or indirect, with Hamas. And sitting ministers and parliamentarians (albeit somewhat constrained by coalition discipline) are making similar noises. The Israeli government and defense establishment are in constant contact with a variety of regional and international officials and non-officials who meet with, and are able to convey a better understanding of, Hamas and its positions. Laura Rozen has a very thoughtful piece on this in MoJo.
In the run-up to last November’s Israeli-Palestinian Annapolis peace conference, over 60 prominent Americans led by Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Carla Hills signed a letter to President Bush and Secretary Rice (initiated by the New America Foundation, among others) that argued: “As to Hamas, we believe that…dialogue…is far preferable to its isolation” and that if “Hamas is ostracized, prospects that they will play a spoiler role increase dramatically.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has adopted a similar position.
For John McCain, Hamas policy (or lack thereof) is part of his parroting of Bush’s talk-to-no-one policy and his more-of-the-sameness. Barack Obama has embraced the idea that tough diplomacy, even with adversaries, might actually have a role in problem solving, but that Hamas is a non-state actor and listed terrorist organization, and therefore is not on the to-be-engaged list. It’s a reasonable distinction to draw even if there are, of course, no Palestinian interlocutors who are ‘state actors’. Obama in general has demonstrated diplomatic sophistication in his Middle East pronouncements, and these were on display again in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, where the Illinois Senator gave vent to his deep familiarity with the Zionist idea, the meaning of Israel in Jewish life and the impact that the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict has on the region.
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Is it a reasonable distinction for Sen. Obama to draw that Hamas is a non-state actor & therefore is not to-be-engaged with?
Yes, an honest reasonable distinction
No, a political cop-out
This is not a scientific survey,
to learn more. Results may not total 100% due to rounding and voting descrepencies.
2381 days ago
I can truly understand McCain's Flip-Flop on this subject, but I really can't excuse Obama's honesty on this issue. I believe that Obama has more to gain by being himself and to say he will engage Hamas as this would be for the sake of protecting Israel in the long-term. There are many Israelis and Jewish People who favor this type of diplomacy and direction. Unfortunately I find Sen. Obama cornering himself because of fear. Say what is on your mind Senator Obama that's why we support you and your fresh ideas. This world needs peace. Engage all - God speed.
2381 days ago
Excellent point if Obama is to achieve in the Middle East he has to engage without pre-conditions regardless of his distinction.
2381 days ago
Chris and PliiM - Both you guys are right on the money. What has always got my goat, he this countires had to set up conditions before concerned parties were to talk. Senator Obama said it best when he used the lines from JFK on this subject matter.
2381 days ago
This is all horse manure. Today's State Department "Terrorist" designations are politically driven and artbitray, and are not based on an accepted definition of terrorism. It is safe to define terrorism as the killing of civilians for the purpose of achieving political gains. If we accept this definition, then we'll come up against a whole lot of state and non-state actors that should be shunned for their "terrorism", including many US allies. Indeed, many of Israel's own leaders (including Prime Ministers such as Begin, Sharon and Shamir) were wanted for terrorism by the British and others. Yet, the world dealt with them as representatives of the Israeli people. So, yes, it's true that Hamas falls in the category of "terrorist" organizations, but it's also true that it was uniformly elected by the Palestinian people to lead a Palestinian government in universally-certified elections. So, does this make the Palestinian people a bunch of terrorists?
Everyone is stuck in the labels game. I say: labels aside, any reasonable and practical US politician who is interested in the pursuit of real peace in the region MUST deal with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and others currently branded by the State Department as "terrorists". Otherwise, insisting on shunning them, they risk further radicalization of the region into even more extreme groups.
2381 days ago
People have been trying to justify evil for a long time. It should be simple. If you employ suicide attacks as a negotiation tool, we will NOT talk to you. The US must take the only moral road here: the only way to deal with terrorists is to fight them.
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