Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh is always worth reading, and two recent items especially warrant attention. The first is a transcript from a talk Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim reporter for the Jerusalem Post, recently gave to some visiting Americans and posted by writer Michael Totten.
Abu Toameh gives his assessment of the errors by all sides in the recent Israeli-Hamas fighting. He gives a compelling summary of how we got here, how the promise of Oslo gave way to seemingly hopeless condition today, in which a fragmented Palestinian society is poorly governed by corrupt or intransigent leaders and how the U.S., Israel and others failed to see the developing political reality. The journalist, who interacts with all factions in the course of his reporting, isn't seeing anyone learn from their mistakes:
"Hamas is not a partner for any peace agreement because Hamas is not going to change. All these people who believe that Hamas will one day change its ideology, that pragmatic leaders will emerge in Hamas, these people are living under illusions. Hamas is not going to change. To their credit we must say that their message has been very clear. It's the same message in Arabic and in English. They're being very honest about it. They're saying `Folks, we will never recognize Israel. We will never change. We will not abandon the path of the resistance.' They're very clear about it.
After they won the election, by the way, the international community went to Hamas and said `Listen. If you want us to deal with you, accept Israel and everything will be okay.' And Hamas was very honest. They said `No. We are not going to renounce terrorism. We are not going to recognize previous agreements between Palestinians and Israel. And we are not going to recognize Israel's right to exist.' They were very clear about it. And they say the same thing today."
Abu Toameh also wrote an article urging a new approach toward calming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict published Monday by the Hudson Institute. The two-state solution may be ideal, but not practical. Instead, Egypt and Jordan should be persuaded to take control of Gaza and the West Bank respectively, at least until Palestinians are ready to govern themselves.
There's a lot of talk about Israeli settlements being an obstacle to peace. Abu Toameh sees some truth in that, but notes that the settlements had nothing to do with corruption in Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority and the failure of both the Authority and Hamas to build a Palestinian economy.
"After the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority had another chance to start building infrastructure for the long-awaited state. But instead of turning the Gaza Strip into the Singapore of the Middle East, the Palestinians turned the Gaza Strip into a base for radical Islamic organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Since mid-2007, the Palestinians have two entities: one in the Gaza Strip that is run by Hamas and supported by Iran and Syria, and the other, a secular, powerless and corrupt regime of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank."
King Hussein and Hosni Mubarak may balk at the prospect of assuming responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza, Abu Toameh acknowledges. "But the Palestinians really need the help of these two countries." The old ways aren't working, so why not try?