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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hamas Boycott: Patience pays

Perhaps Ben-Meir's optimism that the Hamas boycott has paid off is premature. Aren't we all supporting the Fateh government? Nobody will boycott them, of course. And isn't that government being urged to enter into unity talks with Hamas?
By Yehuda Ben-Meir

The Hamas government was set up about a year and a quarter ago. Israel announced it would boycott the government, since it considers Hamas a terrorist organization. To the surprise of many, the United States, Europe and the international Quartet (which also includes a representative from the United Nations and from Russia) joined the boycott.
These parties all made it clear that despite Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections, so long as the government did not recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and take upon itself a commitment to all the agreements signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, they would not recognize it, would not hold contacts with it, and would not transfer money to it.
The analysts and the journalists were quick to inform the people of Israel that the international boycott would not last long.
They even showed contempt for the naivete of the Israeli government, that was deluding itself thinking that the boycott would continue for a long time.
I recall the response of a TV anchor on one of the commercial stations who, with a wink of her eye and a look of disdain, remarked to the reporter who spoke about the Quartet's position: "Let's see how many days it will last."
There were quite a few experts and politicians who urged the government to talk with Hamas, or else Israel would find itself isolated - after all, it was clear that the collapse of the international boycott against the Hamas government was merely a matter of time.
Lo and behold, what an amazing thing has happened! Despite all the forecasts and the predictions of those "in the know," the opposite has happened: The boycott has remained in force.
With the establishment of the Palestinian unity government, these analysts and journalists had another chance. Israel will remain alone, they warned, perhaps only with the United States, but the rest of the world will rush to recognize the unity government.
One evening newspaper even announced in its headline across the entire front page, that "the international boycott has collapsed."
True, Norway and South Africa recognized the unity government, but the European Union and the UN secretary general did not follow in their footsteps.
Despite all the dire warnings, and despite all the skepticism and the cynicism, the international boycott has remained in force, and is continuing to this very day.
Today, after the conquest of the Gaza Strip, the international boycott of the Hamas (Haniyeh) government is almost total since both Egypt and Jordan have joined it.
The moral of the story is that sometimes patience and determination pay off.
Now it is up to Israel to continue with this boycott and isolation of the Gaza Strip with even greater effort. It must not heed the extreme right that knows only how to propose war after war, occupation after occupation. And it must likewise not heed the extreme left that knows only how to propose one concession after another.
True, peace is made with enemies, but with enemies one sometimes also needs to go to war. The wise thing is to know how to distinguish between one enemy and another.
There are those among the Palestinians who wish to arrive at a peaceful settlement with us. I know many such people. Abu Mazen represents them.
These are the people with whom we must speak. The gaps between us are huge, but it is our duty to make every effort to bridge them.
Hamas, on the other hand, is an extreme ideological adversary, a bitter, cruel, murderous and bloodthirsty enemy. Hamas will not give up its extremist Islamic ideology of which virulent anti-Semitism is a central component.
With Hamas we do not have anything to talk about. Hamas and its government in Gaza must be boycotted, isolated, and cut off from the world. They must be fought with determination and perseverance.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.

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