A Bracing Look at the Reality of Hamas

Jonathan Spyer is not a romantic:

The nature of the regime created by Hamas in Gaza, and its strength and durability, has received insufficient attention in the West. This may have a political root: Western governments feel the need to keep alive the fiction of the long-dead peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. One of the necessary components of this is pretending that the historic split between nationalists and Islamists among the Palestinians has not really happened, or that it is a temporary glitch that will soon be reconciled. This fiction is necessary for peace process believers, because it enables them to continue to treat the West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas as the sole representative of the Palestinians.

But fiction it is. An Islamist one-party quasi-state has been built in Gaza over the last half-decade. The prospects for this enclave and its importance in the period ahead have been immeasurably strengthened by the advances made by Hamas' fellow Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

I'm curious to see what Hussein Ibish says about this analysis. My fear is that Spyer is right, and that we will look back on this period as a transitional one, in which the Palestinian movement was thoroughly Islamicized, and in which Israel shifted further and further to the right. A reporter asked me earlier today how long I felt the two-state solution would be viable before it would be overcome by events. My answer was a kind of sidestep: There is no choice but the two-state solution, so therefore it doesn't have an expiration date. It has to be pursued until it is achieved. The other alternatives:
1) The six million Jews decide in some democratic fashion to dissolve their state and to seek a merger with the Palesitnians. The chance of this: Unlikely.
2) A third intifada, bloodier than the previous two, followed by repression, followed by bloodier uprisings, followed by repressions, leading to total, seemingly endless war.

I don't think we're at the point of explosion yet, but I'm feeling a bit grim these days. I realize that Peter Beinart and others believe that the key to peace is public, sustained pressure on the Israeli government to give up what it is not prepared to give up. But the Israeli government does not want to do what Peter and others want it to do because most Israelis don't want it to do this. Israelis see, over the past 12 years, two withdrawals, one from Lebanon and one from Gaza, that both ended-up empowering groups dedicated to Israel's destruction. They see Egypt moving toward Muslim Brotherhood rule; they see Lebanon as Hezbollah-occupied territory; they see Syria coming apart, to possibly reorganize itself as an Islamist state; and they see signs that Jordan's future is somewhat precarious as well. Then they ask: And you want to us to give up the high ground overlooking Tel Aviv?

The only interim solution is a kind of modified unilateralism, in which settlements are pulled back, leaving only the Israeli army on the high ground, until such time as its withdrawal can be negotiated. But I'm not betting on this one, either.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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