Siegman on What Hamas Wants

Last night on Charlie Rose, the great Henry Siegman said that he had met recently with Hamas leaders in Beirut. He related Hamas’s aims.

Hamas is prepared to explicitly recognize the state of Israel. But it cannot do so without Israel recognizing the legitimacy of the Palestinians’ aspirations. That means a recognition of the Palestinians’ right to a “viable state” in Gaza and the West Bank, within the ’67 borders, and a recognition of the legitimacy as a negotiating point of the desire by Palestinian refugees to return to lands lost in Israel, even if they never get to return there.

Siegman said the “heart” of the disagreement between Israel and Hamas remains the definition of the borders of the Palestinian state. “[Hamas is] convinced that the overriding strategic goal of [the ruling Kadema party] continues to be setting unilaterally a permanent border, resolving the issues without Palestinian involvement, and consequently they have despaired of returning to the peace process.”

Siegman’s points underscore the importance of a forceful and independent American role here to end this conflict. His points also underscore what Stephen Walt said about opposing the pro-Israel lobby on C-Span the other day, “[The Israel/Palestine conflict] is a national security priority for the United States, given the role that it plays in contributing to Islamic radicalism and anti-Americanism generally… The U.S. has never been willing to do anything to halt Israel’s settlement policy. Many Israelis now regard [that policy] as a tragic mistake.”