Logically, any peace deal that is made between Fatah and Israel, but excludes Hamas would inevitably break down as the democratically elected Hamas would reject the deal. For peace to be made between Israel and Palestine, the US and Israel must begin to engage the Islamic group. I have seen engaging Hamas as a necessity for a while now and I am not alone. Henry Siegman, Colin Powell, former Mossad chief Efram Halevy, Desmond Tutu, Stephen Hawking and Tony Blair are among those calling for Hamas to be brought into the peace process.
Since Hamas took control of the government in 2005, it has forced itself to be much more moderate than in the past, creating a situation in which engaging the group is actually possible. And perhaps something is actually changing.
[tweetmeme] Unfortunately, after the recent flare of violence between Israel and Hamas, rocket attacks from Gaza have escalated, though most are not from Hamas. Russian FM Lavrov recently warned Hamas chief Khalid Meshal that the rocket attacks must stop and Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas official, has warned that the rockets into Israel are only hurting Palestinian interests.
Now there are reports that ex-US diplomats are meeting with Hamas officials. Robert Malley – an official from the Clinton Administration – and Thomas Pickering – an ex-US ambassador – have met on multiple occasions with Hamas leaders. Apparently, though, these meetings date back to the Bush Administration (Rozen has more).
More recently, it has come out that the US authorized a Foreign Service Officer – Rachel Schneller – to meet with Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan during a conference in Doha in February. Schneller was apparently on loan to the Council of Foreign Relations* for 1 year, but retains her government affiliation and received blessing for the contact from the State Department.
This is certainly a baby step and in no way signals a change in the US stance towards Hamas. But, could it lead to something…
*Who knew that being a US diplomat was like being an international football player?
Photo from Moon Battery