Op-Ed: Evaluating The United Palestinian Front
Khaled Mashaal’s visit to Palestine and his joyful welcome by Ismail Haniyeh as a guest of honor was certainly one of the most striking events of last week.
Islamic Jihad and Fatah also participating in this semblance of coalition has raised questions about the likely strength and intentions of this group including radical individuals. When we think of what Khaled Mashaal said, “Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem” it is understandable that concerns about lack of security spring to the forefront given that statement.
But is there another way to evaluate the new picture of a coalition in the Palestinian Administration for which the Muslim Brotherhood from time to time demonstrates its explicit support?
Although it may look alarming, political union in Palestine is actually a positive development; instead of trying to come to terms with four groups with different viewpoints it is always far easier if there is a single group to deal with. We should not always look at events from a purely negative perspective, therefore.
When we look at the recent past we see that time and time again Hamas has adopted methods that were incompatible with Islam and resorted to violence to resolve problems rather than negotiation. But while the support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian leaders putting on a more united front (at least publicly) might appear to be strengthening Hamas’ hand, we must also not forget that this is a coalition. It would therefore be more logical to expect the other components of that coalition to draw Hamas into a common line, rather than the other coalition members to adopt the Hamas line, which includes more radicalized individuals in the whole coalition.
We must also remember that Fatah, for its part, has said that it accepted Israel's right to exist. And if we read into Mashaal’s statement concerning a two-state solution with the ‘67 borders, he is sending out the signals of recognizing Israel. And let’s not forget that as we all ignored Hamas, the organization started to contain radicalized individuals in higher numbers.
When we look at the link between the coalition and the Muslim Brotherhood, we can see that the position is a bit more open to negotiation because the 70-year past of the Muslim Brotherhood shows that the organization is open to argument and direction.
Let me first and foremost say that in addition to being one of the most fervent advocates of the Egyptian political right, the Muslim Brotherhood was also a powerful supporter of human rights under the Mubarak regime. We cannot say in all honesty that the Muslim Brotherhood was constantly engaged in acts of terror during the years of detentions, imprisonment and torture, nor that this was party policy.
Even if the new Constitution in Egypt does not exactly reflect the democratic model of our dreams, we still have to acknowledge that it is at least an attempt at democracy in a region that was for years governed by despotism and dictatorship and that was exposed to persecution of all kinds. The fact that despite intense pressure from certain segments of the Egyptian electorate and some of Egypt's neighbors, President [Mohamed] Morsi is keeping the Camp David Agreement alive, is also good news.
If we set out the steps that Israel needs to take for a permanent peace in the region, the first is to find effective allies in negotiations with Palestinian Arabs. These allies will again be Turkey and Egypt. Israel’s most powerful ally in the region, in both commercial and military terms, has always been Turkey.
Turkish Muslims have historically been protective and affectionate toward the Jews and can be instrumental in Israel drawing closer to the new Egyptian regime. That will mean Israel having a stronger hand and a more reliable position in negotiations with any new Palestinian Arab coalition. Therefore, we can even think of a united coalition as in fact being an advantage. This could, for the first time produce a structure that is open to rational argument. Turkey being involved in a solidarity pact between Israel and Egypt will also encourage Egypt to adopt more democratic measures.
There needs to be a fundamental change in the Palestinian Arab perspective and ideology in order to assure a positive outcome. Bearing in mind the population, the time and costs involved in this ideological education will be much less than the military costs.
The new Egyptian regime can be invited to adopt a more democratic line and better relations can be established by pointing to Turkey as a role model of a secular and democratic state.
Destructive language must be scrupulously avoided if an agreement is to be reached with the Palestinian Administration. Only then can the parties begin to talk and a real agreement be reached.
If we think of these people as raising new generations exposed to anti-Israeli propaganda under the guise of Islam, then what needs to be done is to endow the new generation in particular with a sufficient level of information to distinguish true Islam from aggressive traditions.
The people in question here are an uneducated group who are unaware that according to Islam a suicide bomber can never enter Paradise, that it is a sin to bomb the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that taking an innocent life is as evil a sin as killing all mankind.
The fact that Hamas has adopted an increasing number of radical individuals stems from the fact that it has turned away from the truths of Islam.
If true Muslims stand up, with no thought of any political advantage, and tell these people the truth, and if media organizations also report these truths, then the various low-information groups who directly or indirectly support Hamas’ policies will soon change their minds and a favorable public opinion will emerge in the Islamic world as a whole.