Last month, I wrote about the danger Hamas poses to peace in the Middle East on a second, and relatively new, front: its newfound diplomatic clout in the region. Saudi Arabia first began dumping cash into Gaza, and was soon followed by Qatar doing the same—between them the countries just pledged nearly $1 billion in investment in the Strip. And Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has figured out that he wields more influence with the West as a mediator between Hamas and the Western world.
Always clearly, though quietly, opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, the Arab world is no longer hiding it, choosing instead to garishly empower and enrich the entity that will make peace impossible. And so, as Egypt mediated an Israel-Hamas cease-fire this week, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal also received a prime interview slot on CNN at the tail end of Operation Pillar of Defense. Did he use this time to feign moderation? On the contrary, Meshaal reads the support he’s getting from around the world as a signal that he need not moderate, nor claim to. Here is Christiane Amanpour asking Meshaal about a two-state solution and renouncing terrorism:
AMANPOUR: You say you would prefer the route that did not cause so much violence, so much death.
And yet, you say that you would accept a two-state solution, but that you will not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Is that still the case?
MESHAAL (through translator): First of all, the offer must come from the attacker, from Israel, which has the arsenal, not from the victim. Second, I say to you from 20 years ago and more, the Palestinians and Arabs are offering peace. But peace is destroying peace through aggression and war and killing.
This idea (ph), this touch failed experiences, we have two options. No other. Either there’s an international will, led by the U.S. and Europe and the international community and force Israel to go through the way of peace and a Palestinian state, according to the border of 1967 with the right to return. And this is something we have agreed upon as Palestinians, as a common program.
But if Israel can continue to refuse this, either the — either we force them or resist to — resort to resistance. I accept a state of the 1967. How can I accept Israel? They have occupied my land. I need recognition, not the Israelis. This is a reversed question.
The Palestinian right of return Meshaal talks about is obviously the end of the state of Israel. And if Israel won’t agree to let the Palestinians control the land from the river to the sea, “we force them or… resort to resistance.”
Later, Amanpour asks Meshaal if the conflict in Syria and Bashar al-Assad’s support from Iran has caused Hamas to distance itself from Iran. Meshaal answers frankly: “No. You see, the relationship with Iran is present.” And not just Iran, and not just the Arab world, either. Meshaal adds: “Everyone giving us support, whether it’s from Iran or Europe.”
When George Mitchell stepped down as White House envoy to the Middle East in 2011, Walter Russell Mead wrote an essay about the failure to make any headway during Mitchell’s tenure. Mitchell famously tried to apply his experience as a negotiator in Northern Ireland to the Middle East, and Mead gave several reasons this was doomed from the start. But there were, as Mead noted, lessons to be learned from the situation in Northern Ireland. Among them:
The Irish weren’t secretly funding radical and rejectionist nationalist terror groups. Iceland and Denmark weren’t funding Irish terrorists to advance their own agendas. France wasn’t encouraging the IRA to fight on as a way of containing Britain. Catholics around the world weren’t demonstrating and raising money for Irish annexation of Ulster; the Pope wasn’t issuing encyclicals affirming the religious duty of Catholics to fight to kick the heretics out. (A few grizzled US-based Irish emigrants raised money for the IRA, but this is nothing compared to what groups like Hamas get from abroad.) The European Union wasn’t condemning British war crimes in Ulster and passing resolutions in favor of Irish grievances.
The EU, the US, Ireland, the Vatican and Britain all wanted the troubles to stop. None of them were willing to help troublemakers. All of them were willing to crack down on terrorist groups.
The international community wanted peace and the end of terrorism. But watching Meshaal preen on CNN, promising an unending war of terror against Israeli civilians while at the same time and in practically the same breath boasting of the support Hamas receives from around the world, it’s clear there is no such dedication this time around. Hamas’s isolation was always a key to bringing some measure of peace to the region. There is no isolation, and Hamas is promising that there will be no peace.