Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thank you Amira Hass

Were you as intrigued as I was by Amira Hass’s piece on Haaretz’s front page today (Sunday, February 12)?

It’s an item that ought to be read – carefully.

Hass – perhaps the country’s foremost pro-Palestinian, Israeli-born journalist – describes a closed-door meeting of the Quartet (the UN, US, EU & Russia) which took place on January 30 in London.

Also attending was former US president Jimmy Carter, in his capacity as having been a “senior” monitor of the Palestinian elections.

A quick aside. Years ago, I interviewed the late Rabbi Alexander Schindler in connection with research I was doing on his tenure as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations during the Carter years.

Schindler, a Reform rabbi and liberal Democrat, told me in no uncertain terms that Carter was the only president he would classify as an out-and-out Jew-hater. I’ve never forgotten that.

Back to London.

Carter used his Quartet guest appearance, according to Hass, to denounce Israeli policies and to criticize the US for coddling the Jewish state.

Then Carter urged the Quartet to open negotiations with Hamas. Hass does not tell us how Condoleezza Rice reacted.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavorov, Hass reports, also said a few nice words about Hamas.

One thing that emerges out of Hass’s description of the meeting is that the Quartet was (all along) far from united in backing Washington’s “no talk” stance on Hamas. Not just Russia, but Kofi Annan and the EU’s Javier Solana also wanted to go soft on Hamas.

What this illuminates for me is that all the anger at Putin because of his plans to invite Hamas to Moscow is wasted.

Pundits were asking why Russia was “breaking” with the Quartet, and speculating that Moscow wanted to re-establish the foothold in the region that the USSR once enjoyed. There’s something to that, perhaps.

But if Hass is right – Russia’s actions are in essential harmony with the Quartet’s view of Hamas.

If anyone is out of step with the “international community” it is Washington.

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