By Michael Young
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Say what you will about Jimmy Carter, he has a way of transforming moments of plodding gravitas into uproarious comedy. Remember that moment during the 1980 Democratic convention when Carter stood up, and in a phrase paying tribute to Hubert Humphrey, instead praised "Hubert Horatio Hornblower," confusing the late vice president with the character from the C.S. Forester novels?
As Carter prepares to meet with a senior Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, in
The debate over whether the
You can almost hear Khaled Meshaal gasping at the naivete of such sweeping positivism, as he prepares to score points off his solemn American visitor. Meshaal knows what talks with Hamas would really imply, and he knows the snag is hardly one of miscommunication.
For one thing, negotiating with Hamas would effectively undermine the authority and credibility of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization - together, the paramount representatives of the Palestinian people. If the engagers' riposte is that Abbas is already discredited, that only confirms their intention to replace Abbas with Hamas as
Regardless of whether this is true, it makes no sense today to damage Abbas by opening a channel to Hamas, which has never endorsed the agreements reached with
A second consequence of talking to Hamas, Meshaal knows, is that it would insert
There is also a valid case to be made that Hamas is not interested in a peace treaty with
Whatever Hamas' true intentions, the contention that states should not talk to the movement on principle is difficult to sustain, if only because politics abhors a vacuum and the impulse to do something different can become overwhelming. That's why the onus should be placed on defenders of engagement to substantiate their proposals. Talking should not be an end in itself. First the engagers should clarify what Hamas will agree to talk about. The movement says it is willing to negotiate a long-term truce with
On the other hand, if Hamas is willing to discuss peace, then the movement has to first demonstrate this before anyone seriously considers overhauling the Palestinian-
That's why Jimmy Carter is on a fool's errand, complicating an already complicated situation. It's often said that Carter has been a better ex-president than president. That's no compliment, so ghastly was his tenancy of the White House - the
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
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