So President Bush finally recognizes the urgent need to address the Palestine-Israel conflict. His "vision" of an independent Palestine state, first articulated in 2002, we are told, will be at the center of a major international peace conference to be held in the fall. In 2002, the President essentially said that Arafat was not a partner for peace. In 2007, the President says that Hamas is not a partner for peace. How much has taken place in the intervening years since 2002, and yet the President's eyes remain shut!? Only the Palestinians must change; Israel is asked to only 'ease' the misery of the Palestinians.
However, if 'better-late-than-never' guides our hopes even for moments, then we are able to conclude that the President is finally moving somewhat toward restarting the peace process. Since 2000, the United States has made no credible effort to make parties adhere to the "Roadmap for Peace". In fact, as the Palestinian society reached a point of total breakdown, the US turned a blind eye to Israel's continued brutal treatment of the Palestinians, ignored its expansion of settlements on expropriated lands, and, above all, consequently delegitimized all moderate forces in Palestine and Israel.
But there is hope. Historically, many American lame duck presidents have a moment in which they can harmlessly bypass the Israeli lobby and endeavor to do the moral thing in the Middle East. President Clinton took advantage of this moment and worked so hard to bridge the differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I believe Bush stands a rare chance to do the same now and we support his ambitions.
Unfortunately, with the seemingly irreconcilable differences between Fatah and Hamas, and Bush's strategy of only supporting Fatah and excluding Hamas, this "feed-and-starve" policy will impede genuine peace because it does not address the true essential cause of the conflict, namely the 40-year-old Israeli occupation. Importantly, Hamas is widely favored by the Palestinian people and their recent clean landslide electoral victory was a testament to its popularity. Bush's anti-Hamas strategy, even if it leads to some major agreements between Abbas and Israel, will not engender the much needed Palestinian popular support. It simply is an act of political suicide to think that Abbas can deliver the Palestinian people without the endorsement and equal participation of Hamas. Instead of two states west of the River Jordan (Palestine and Israel), Bush's isolationist policy towards Hamas will produce a third and miserly hostile 'state' in Gaza- a prospect not beneficial to the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Egyptians or the United States.
We must found ways to reincorporate Hamas into the political landscape, and history is on our side only if Bush will learn from it. In 1948, when Israel was created, its most active terrorist groups such as Lehi and Stern were merged into the new Israeli government, with almost no opposition by world powers. It was controversial and difficult, particularly for the British, to simply overlook and forget about the horrific assassinations, bombings, and terror campaigns by these gangs. I believe our President in the remainder of his presidency and in light of his off-course adventures in Iraq, can, and should be able to "move on" as well. He needs to recognize and address the legitimate and real grievances that fuels Hamas: forty years of Israeli military occupation, the dispossession of the Palestinian people, their yearning for freedom from wont and from foregin control. The fact is that, as the occupying power, the onus for resolving the conflict rests primarily upon Israel, not the Palestinians. Just as occupation and repression can never justify terrorism, neither can terrorism justify occupation and repression.