Hamas and the Two-State Solution Myth

Commentary Magazine 20 November 2012
By Jonathan S. Tobin

Since Hamas initiated the latest round of fighting in Gaza, Israel’s critics have been hard-pressed to criticize the country’s need to defend its people against a barrage of hundreds of rockets fired by terrorists. But that hasn’t stopped some of them from trying to use the conflict to claim that the only solution is to further empower the Islamist terrorist group that rules over Gaza with an iron hand. That’s the prescription for a new U.S. foreign policy coming from the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart. Beinart thinks what America and Israel need to do is try and use a cease-fire agreement to co-opt the Islamists into backing a new peace process, along with their Fatah rivals of the Palestinian Authority, as well as to promote Palestinian democracy.

It is an article of faith on the left that the two-state solution, rather than Israeli military efforts, is the only answer to Palestinian terrorism. But though most Israelis, including the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, have accepted the idea in principle, the repeated refusal of even the so-called moderate Palestinians to negotiate have rendered the idea moot for the foreseeable future. But as unrealistic as calls for Israel to do something to boost the PA are at this moment, to imagine, as Beinart does, that Hamas can be co-opted into such a process by Western recognition demonstrates an astonishing lack of understanding of the situation.

Beinart is right when he characterizes the Israeli counter-offensive as merely a short-term solution rather than a long-term strategy. Many Israelis regard Operation Pillar of Defense in much the same way they saw the 2008 campaign called Cast Lead: as nothing more than a periodic effort to hamper Hamas’s military capability. The 2005 decision to withdraw from Gaza was a security disaster, but few Israelis want any part of governing the strip again. All they want is for it to be prevented from threatening their country, and to that end they back a regular "grass cutting” in Gaza that will make it harder for Hamas to terrorize millions of Israelis the way they have in the last week.

This Israeli consensus frustrates foreign observers like Beinart who insist they can solve a problem that citizens of the Jewish state see as having been proven to be intractable by 20 years of failed peace processing. They also understand that, contrary to Beinart, the last thing Hamas wants is either peace with Israel under any circumstances or democracy for the Palestinians. (continue reading...)