Professors of Middle Eastern studies say the damnest things, and I’m collecting their wackiest assessments of Hamas’ rise to power. Most of the so-called experts are at pains to suggest that the commitment of Hamas to its professed ideology is just show, and that the movement is really an improved strain of Palestinian nationalism, devoted to clean, accountable government.
But Ian Lustick, the Bess W. Heyman Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, goes even further in an interview with the Voice of America. Here is the key quote:
If you go back to the beginning, the Palestinians and Zionists had completely contradictory ideas. The Zionists had the idea that all of Palestine would be a Jewish state and the Palestinian Arabs had the idea that there would be no Jewish presence at all. Now, the center of gravity inside the Israeli political system is that there will be a Palestinian state. And Hamas is mainly popular because one of the things it is trusted to do is probably be ready to live with Israel, even if not officially, for a very long time.
Do you get that? Hamas isn’t just going to adjust to Israel by force of circumstance, as many analysts argue. According to Lustick, Palestinians elected Hamas precisely because it’s ready to live with Israel! It represents, on the Palestinian side, a parallel to the Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian state.
For Lustick, it’s just a matter of time before Hamas reveals itself to the rest of us. Hamas, he says, doesn’t want negotiations–for now. “But they do want a period of calm and they are manifestly able to enforce that calm. So there is a logical deal in which Israel and a Hamas Palestinian Authority wait, a year or two, before any serious negotiations and each of them moves slowly toward it.” Of course, how logical! Isn’t it obvious? In a couple of years, we’ll have “serious negotiations.” The “peace process” is alive! If the United States and Israel fail to seize the opportunity–well, we’ll all know where to lay the blame.
But gee, I’m really confused. Here I’ve got this piece by Steven Erlanger, New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem, who almost persuaded me that “the ‘peace process’ is effectively dead…. A long, hostile quiet may be possible. Israelis and Palestinians may pursue parallel unilateralisms. But serious negotiations on a peace settlement? Very unlikely.” Whom do I believe? Logical Lustick? Or ear-to-the-ground Erlanger?
Ian, I so want to believe your message of hope! It’s just that the last time I noticed you, you were on a rant about the neo-con “cabal” foisting the Iraq war on America. Then you were signing a bizarre petition against Ariel Sharon’s supposed secret plan to expel the Palestinians under the cover of an Iraq war. I’m confused, too, by all these contradictory statements coming from Hamas leaders. So I await your fuller, deeper, theoretically sophisticated, empirically-based analysis.
Ian Lustick will speak on “Israel and Hamas: Ways Forward” tonite, Monday, March 27, 6:00 pm, at the University of Pennsylvania, Jon M. Huntsman Hall, Room F95, 38th and Walnut Streets. Refreshments will be served.