17 September '10
With the resumption of Arab-Israeli direct talks comes the regurgitation of a minority view that these talks are destined to fail because Hamas is excluded. The first salvo in this ongoing campaign came from Palestinian-American blogger Ali Abunimah, an advocate of the one-state solution, who expounded upon the need for recognizing Hamas in the New York Times. Peter Beinart made the same case in a broader Daily Beast column about Obama's failed foreign policy. What both had in common, apart from thinking rather generously of a totalitarian and anti-Semitic Islamist party, is use of the Irish Republican Army and Northern Ireland as a convenient analogy for the Middle East peace process. Didn't the British government eventually sit down with Sinn Fein, the IRA's "political wing," after decades of murderous mayhem in Belfast and Tube, pub, and other bombings on the mainland? And can't the same lessons learned from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which inaugurated the end of the Troubles, be applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict?
There are many obvious reasons why this analogy fails. The IRA never employed suicide bombers or called for the wholesale destruction of Great Britain. Nor was it the client of a theocratic state intent on becoming a nuclear power. It was also thoroughly integrated with Sinn Fein and could therefore act with greater strategic cohesion than the fragmented Hamas, whose political and paramilitary leadership is spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank, and Damascus, Syria. But, most important, the analogy misconstrues the history of the Northern Ireland peace process and the ultimate aim of the Good Friday Agreement, which was, chiefly, to undermine the terrorists, not to legitimize them.
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