Letters to the Editor

Readers write about talking to Hamas.

Views on whether US and Israel should talk to Hamas

In response to the March 25 article, "Should the world talk to Hamas?": Stimulating wars is the outgoing American administration's lasting legacy. To its dying day, the administration has sent a clear message that not only is Israel not to negotiate with Hamas, but neither can Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president.

When PA representatives reached agreement with Hamas in Yemen to return Gaza to the status quo ante, it was quickly retracted under pressure from donor countries. This, together with evidence outlined in a Vanity Fair magazine article regarding the administration's failed efforts to stage a coup in Gaza that led to Hamas's rise to power, would suggest an astonishing reality: The United States wants a Palestinian civil war.

This is how far neoconservative ideology will go to prevent the inconvenient truth that talking to enemies whose behavior you despise is what statecraft and diplomacy are all about, and have been for thousands of years, with often successful results. Yasser Arafat was once Ismail Haniyeh [senior political leader of Hamas] and the Palestinian Liberation Organization was once Hamas, and we lost decades in cycles of violence by not talking. In the end, we talked.

Whoever you ban from the table of negotiation turns that table over. We can talk to Hamas without undermining the Palestinian Authority.

Marc Gopin
Arlington, Va.


Center on Religion, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Regarding the recent article on opening discussions with Hamas: If the Israeli public wants talks with Hamas, then shouldn't it follow that the rest of the world should talk to Hamas? According to a poll published in the Israeli newspaper Haaratz, "Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire.... Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks."

I vote on the side of the Israeli people.

Scott Cooper
Arlington, Va.

In response to the recent article on negotiating with Hamas: Would the article suggest that the US should negotiate with Osama bin Laden if the opportunity arose? Should FDR have negotiated with Hirohito after Pearl Harbor? Should Churchill have negotiated with Hitler? What would be the subject of such negotiations?

What exactly would Israel negotiate with Hamas? "Negotiate" means a process of compromise, a "give and take" leading to a mutual agreement that each party to the negotiations would uphold. Hamas has made it clear, in word and deed, that, first and foremost, there will be no compromise, no solution, that would envisage the existence of an independent Jewish state in the Middle East.

William Bilek
Woodstock, Ga.

Regarding the recent article on talking to Hamas: We should not refrain from talking to anybody. "Know your enemy" is the first rule of engagement. That does not mean we recognize them. We simply tell them that if they want to join the civilized world, they have to start acting in a civilized manner. Otherwise they will be treated as hoodlums and criminals.

That is how to deal with rogue leaders and militias. We should not shy away from the display of power either.

Noel Francis
Chino, Calif.

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