What next? [Archives:2006/917/Opinion]

January 2 2006

By: Tawakkol Karman

Following Sharon's comprehensive election victory, I was pessimistic about the peace process. I thought it would come to a deadlock in Sharon's hands. Yet, I listened to a different viewpoint from someone interested in the peace process. He thought the contrary would happen and the peace process would be enhanced under Sharon's administration due to his huge popularity among Israelis who believe he has deep vision.

Frankly, this viewpoint was not plausible to me. I even thought it did not deserve reflecting upon. I thought Sharon's history exemplified Israel's bloody history of skulls and remaining body parts. In my mind, Sharon's image was linked with banditry and vandalism. This image did not change; however, what did was my reconsideration of the above-mentioned viewpoint I neglected then. Time and passing years proved its credibility. We witnessed a Gaza pullout and for the first time, Palestinians enjoyed free strolling around Gaza without Israeli permission.

Shortly before his recent stroke, Sharon spoke of final demarcation of Israeli borders, which consequently means Palestinian borders. I am not praising Sharon but rather, I declare that politics knows no permanent enmity and political stances are changeable.

Hamas's recent electoral victory convinced me that it is the most qualified to bring the peace process to its ultimate successful destiny. Yet, those who see in Hamas nothing but explosive belts are mere pessimists. I expect an advance towards peace and the final solution to come in the hands of Hamas.

Poll results revealed that Hamas enjoys the same popularity Sharon had within the Israeli community. This popularity crosses Palestinian borders to Arab and Islamic countries and its popular base in these countries makes it capable of a peace deal.

There are no permanent enemies in politics, as there are no barriers banning negotiations with others. This seemed to be the new trend of Hamas leadership when they entered local and general elections, indicating their acceptance of the Oslo Treaty, which logically leads to acceptance of two neighboring countries. The idea of an Israeli state extending from river to sea exists no more. It is an Israeli slogan Hamas thinks is no longer realistic or achievable. The real matter now is two states based on international legitimacy. This is what Hamas is supposed to say in a clear-cut stance.

Pullout of 1967-occupied areas and the return of refugees should be the fundamental bases for international legitimacy. Such legitimacy should give Hamas a chance and support it as a newly emerging political power.

In his first election campaign, Ismail Hania of Hamas announced the movement recognized the Oslo agreement and the Road Map, despite not being fully content with it. He also said they will deal with the Sykes-Picot agreement. He renewed his call for a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as capital and the return of all refugees. These are the same slogans as Fatah. However, a few months ago, only Oslo sympathizers called for refugees' return. Hamas used to say that Palestine is an Islamic endowment.

The international community should recognize and respect the election results. The donor community in particular should not stop its aid on the pretext that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hamas is not a terrorist organization and the Quadrilateral Committee should take the lead in this respect. Those who resort to election polls are not terrorists. Regarding Hamas as a terrorist organization consequently brands Palestinians as terrorists. Those who cite Hamas's resistance, which targeted civilians as terrorists, should also bear in mind that occupation is the worst kind of terrorism.

The international community should be neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict and abandon double-standard treatment if it is to achieve peace.

Tawakkol Karman heads Women

Journalists Without Constraints (WJWC).