Jimmy Carter is in Damascus today and had the following to say after his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and before checking in with Hamas head Khalid Mishal:
"I don't believe there is any possibility to have peace between the Palestinians and Israel unless Hamas is involved directly in harmony with Fatah.This is all silliness. The only terms under which Hamas would agree to any sort of "harmony" with Fatah is if such an agreement were to extend the Islamists' power and legitimacy. If Fatah does agree to such a settlement, it will mean that its leadership has effectively surrendered. In any case, any Fatah-Hamas reunion is not in Israel's interest nor in that of the U.S. At least not as long as we are talking about the same Hamas that exists today.
"My own preference is for the United States government to find a way at a very [early] date to have direct discussions with the Hamas leadership.
"The first step has to be reconciliation between the Palestinian leaders to have a stable foundation to negotiate effectively with the Israeli leaders.
"I will be discussing with [Hamas] if they are willing to make the commitments for peaceful relations with Israel in the future and accept the overall requirements for peace and accommodation."
Hamas today derives its power from Syrian and Iranian money, training and weapons, and from its security organization in Gaza. Its legitimacy in Palestinian society is based on its religious vision, social welfare organizations, electoral success, and its uncompromising stance against Israel, which it has demonstrated with its successful terrorist attacks. Neither its bases of legitimacy nor its sources of power make a rapprochement with Israel at all likely. Hamas is therefore irrelevant to a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It thus has very little to offer to the U.S. The U.S., like Israel, would do much better to focus on the West Bank, at least as long as Fatah maintains power there.
In the meantime, Israel will probably have to live with Gaza being ruled by Hamas. Unfortunately, the scenarios in which Hamas might be removed from power are limited to the following,
- internal revolt
- military defeat of Hamas as political and security force
- end of sponsorship by Iran and Syria
none of which will take place any time soon.