Sunday, January 25, 2009

Time to Rethink Hamas; Isolation - Robert Malley

Agence France Presse, January 25, 2009 - A week after a fragile ceasefire began in Gaza, former US diplomat turned head of the International Crisis Group's Middle East programme Robert Malley looks at the 22-day conflict's impact on the region.

Malley, who was distanced from Barack Obama's US presidential campaign for his contacts with Hamas, says that the largely Western boycott of the Islamists is a failure and discusses Obama's future role in the region.

His comments have been translated from the French.

AFP: Was there a winner and a loser in the latest war on Gaza?

Malley: Israel can say that it has delivered a harsh blow to Gaza while sustaining minor losses itself and has reestablished its power of deterrence. For Hamas, it was about showing that they could stay in place without giving way, and from this point of view it has achieved its main objective.

And Hamas seems reinforced in Arab and Palestinian public opinion, and then there's the criticism of Israel's war conduct from around the world.

AFP: Should contact be made with Hamas while it has not recognised Israel or renounced violence, as demanded by the Middle East peace Quartet of the European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States?

Malley: First of all, one point: Hamas exists and has survived. It's unrealistic to think that you can defeat it with an economic blockade, that you can defeat it with more 'moderate' forces (from the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas) or that you can defeat it militarily. These paths have failed in a crushing way....

Robert Malley directs the Middle East and North Africa Program at the International Crisis Group. He has special expertise in the Israel-Palestine conflict. As Special Assistant to President Clinton, he was a member of the U.S. peace team and helped organize the 2000 Camp David Summit.

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