Imagine a world in which one side is always correct and the other side is always wrong. Not so difficult to imagine because that is the world we live in now. Foreign policy is full of political actors who hold their political stance above all others, refusing to see issues from another’s point of view. Often times, we fail to see that this view is common place among both sides which makes peace an impossible goal to obtain.
Let’s step outside of our current views towards foreign policies and international relations. By now, it is plausible that everyone is familiar with the striking comments made by Jimmy Carter in regards to Israel and Hamas. Let’s imagine for a second that he is right; Israel and the world should recognize Hamas as a legitimate political actor.
–I feel your blood pumping and frustration setting in, I experienced it too–
But first, let’s look at how Carter’s idea makes sense. And it does. Hamas’ frustration grows from the lack of a meaningful legitimization in Israel’s eyes and in the eyes of most of the world (not to mention Gaza being controlled by Egypt and Israel—yeah I said that). Occupation vs Control (a lively debate, we can be sure.) It is this frustration that leads them to such destructive desperation (e.g. terrorism). Israel is authorized to determine the routes by which goods and people are to enter the Gaza Strip and to conduct searches for weapons. For this reason, Israel may demand that ships transport their cargo to Gaza via the Ashdod port, and if necessary, intercept those who refuse to do so using reasonable force. Israeli Safety or Gaza Control –maybe both? Not to mention water rights, but that’s a blog for another time.
Because of this, Carter puts forth the idea that it is necessary to grant Hamas the status of a “legitimate enemy” before we can come to any agreement or, alternatively, to a frontal war and all that would entail. Think about it, that is how we functioned previously with Arab nations. As long as we label Hamas as a terrorist gang that dominates innocent citizens it is not only that we cannot reach a satisfactory cease-fire in the South with appropriate military consequences, but (and this is the main point) we will not be able to enter into open negotiations with the Gaza government for either Israeli demands for the demands from the people of Gaza. Now I am sure some of you are thinking that Hamas may not choose to sit with Israel for such open negotiations. If that is the case, then Israel should seek to hold open negotiations with the united Palestinian Government. And should that possibility be rejected, and then the Israeli-Gaza war will become a legitimate war in every sense of the word, that should be fought according to the general rules of warfare (but that should be avoided at ALL costs.)
As A.B. Yehoshua, a well-known advocate for peace, has stated, “But let us not forget: The Palestinians in Gaza are our [Israel’s] permanent neighbors and we are theirs. We [Israelis] will never halt the bloody destruction from Hamas with talk of terror except through negotiation or a war against a “legitimate enemy” from whom we have no claims other than the claims that he stop the attacks.”
Similarly, Carter has recognized the difference between the terms “terrorists” and “legitimate enemy” as well as the international influences (or lack thereof) that each term encompasses. If we recognize Hamas as a legitimate political actor on the world state, it may give them incentive to lay down arms for open negations—which is more than we have now. If Hamas is continually looked upon as a terrorist group who seized power, that is what they will remain and countless more innocent people will suffer at their hands, as well as the hands of our elected officials who refuse to see Hamas as a legitimate enemy.
I DO NOT approve of either Hamas’ political actions, or their indiscriminate rocket launches into Israel. I DO support Israel’s right to defend themselves. I DO NOT support the Egyptian blockade of Gaza, and I most certainly DO NOT support Article 7 of the Hamas charter. However, I also understand that as long as a “control” is continually kept over Gaza, this will not end. It will only make Hamas stronger, or allow for more radical groups to come in. Yes, I am a Zionist. Israel has a right to exist, but so does Palestine. I fully support a two-state solution with Jerusalem under international control serving as a “ceremonial capital” (dreaming I know! )