Commentary Magazine


Hamas Channels Arafat Via the Times

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal had his differences with the late Yasser Arafat, but it appears that he has decided to try and advance his cause by copying Arafat’s playbook. The head of the Palestinian Islamist terrorist movement granted New York Times reporter Taghreed El-Khodary a five-hour interview in his home office in Damascus as part of what can only be termed a Hamas charm offensive whose target is the Obama administration.

“I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period,” Meshal pledged. He went on to claim that Hamas is no longer shooting missiles at southern Israel and that it is willing to accept a two-state solution. He also says that his Iranian sponsors don’t control his moves and that Westerners should “ignore” the Hamas charter, a document that quotes liberally from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and which calls for the eradication of Israel and the massacre/expulsion of its Jewish population.

That is, of course, exactly what Obama, whom Meshal praises, wants to hear. It should be pointed out that even in this make-nice interview the Hamas chieftain cited terms for “peace” that are more than a little problematic: “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.”

The report then stated: “Asked what ‘long-term’ meant, he said 10 years.”

So, even if we were to believe him, what he is asking for is a complete Israeli withdrawal from all of the territories, the expulsion of every Jew from the West Bank and half of Jerusalem, the flooding of the State of Israel with millions of Palestinians who claim descent from the Palestinian refugees of 1948, and that this “peace” would expire ten years later.

This sort of statement will help Hamas gain recognition from the West for both its mini-state in Gaza and its efforts to take over the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank via a coalition agreement with the toothless Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. It will also provide fodder for those Americans who want to pressure Israel to surrender more territory to the Palestinians and to negotiate along terms which the Times considers similar to the so-called Saudi/Arab League peace proposal.

But the main point to be gleaned from this interview is that Meshal has finally understood that if he wants Western pressure on Israel, he has to tell the Western press what it wants to hear. That’s what Yasser Arafat did during the Oslo era when he popped off about a “peace of the brave” in English to the foreign press, while at the same time repeating the ultimate goal of “jihad” against the Jewish state when speaking in Arabic to Muslim audiences. For those who followed and believed what he said to his own people, Arafat’s refusal to accept peace or cease support for terror was no surprise, even though true believers in peace in both Washington and Jerusalem spent the 1990s in denial.

Contrary to Meshal’s claim that Arafat’s talk about peace gained him nothing, it brought the PLO back to the territories. The Hamasistan in Gaza is an indirect result of the Israeli concessions that were purchased cheaply with such insincere words.

There is no reason to believe Meshal or to revise the United States’ designation of Hamas as a terrorist group with which it will not talk. But it remains to be seen whether Obama and his foreign policy team are sufficiently naive or so intent on pressuring Israel that they will fall for this same lame trick that worked so well for Arafat.