This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 23/05/2011
Khaled Mishal, the leader of the Hamas movement, demonstrated strong political pragmatism after the uprising witnessed by Syria, as the inter-Palestinian reconciliation agreement was completed quickly in Cairo after years of procrastination. The question today is: does Mishal demonstrate as much political intelligence as pragmatism?
We all saw how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Obama's speech and his statement that the Palestinian borders must be [based on] those of 1967. We watched the “tense” meeting between the two men in the White House, when Netanyahu told Obama that what he is proposing is “unrealistic.” It is no secret that since the beginning of his presidency, Obama's relationship with Netanyahu has not been amicable, and it is not farfetched to say that Obama will be elected for another term; but what concerns us here is that the conditions in the [Middle East] region are changing today in numerous ways and by no means these are not all negative.
Moreover there is an increased concern in Israel today and among some circles in the US that are sympathetic to Israel that Mahmoud Abbas will succeed in his threat to go to the Security Council to propose the issue of recognizing the Palestinian state. Abbas might fail...this is true, but he has been able to weaken the Israeli position internationally. When we say that the conditions in the region are changing, we have [for example] heard the Turkish President Abdullah Gul renew his demand to Khaled Mishal that Hamas must recognize Israel, and we all know how the Turks sympathize with Hamas and even defend it. Therefore reconciliation and political intelligence require Khaled Mishal to take a political stance that consolidates the position of the Palestinian Authority in negotiations and presses Israel even more in front of the international community, the US and Obama in particular.
What is required from Khaled Mishal today is not recognition of Israel without any real cost that would work in the interest of the Palestinian cause but rather that Mishal comes out and openly states that Mahmoud Abbas is an authorized leader for all Palestinians and that he has the right to negotiate with Israel for a period of three years and without conditions set by Hamas with the exception of one condition that nobody can be lenient towards and that is relinquishing Jerusalem. [Mishal must also state that] Hamas is also obligated to what Abbas is obligated to for the sake of establishing a Palestinian state. At that point Netanyahu would not be able to brag by saying that there is no Palestinian side to negotiate with or repeat slogans for media consumption and levy the international community against the PA and Hamas by saying that Israel is asking for a Palestinian clarification of the meaning of reconciliation with Hamas.
Mishal can do this today in the interest of the Palestinian cause, just as Hamas previously served the interests of the Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah for a long time and caused escalation in the region when the region did not need escalating. Hamas then went back to restraining its rockets when the Iranian triangle in the region decided to restrain the rockets and to stop the escalation. What is required from Mishal today is not to serve tactical goals but to work towards the bigger and more superior goal; reaching the Palestinian state.
If Mishal does this he will have rendered a service to the cause and helped to put Israel under more pressure as well as Washington. The issue is not one of good intentions but about interest because the conditions in the region as a whole are not in the interest of Mishal and Hamas. The question here is will Mishal do it and follow a “true” policy? Let us see.