Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Talking with the enemy

Peace requires negotiating with your enemies, says Gerald Kaufman MP, Labour's shadow foreign secretary in the 1980s and 1990s. The Annapolis summit was a complete waste of time, he argues, and so will be any other attempt at a solution that does not involve negotiations with Hamas

February 10, 2008
5 min read

While other traumas worldwide have dominated the headlines in recent months, the disaster of Palestine persists. Unless decisive action is taken, particularly by the United States and the European Union, it will get only worse, with incalculable consequences for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and also for the stability of the Middle East and the peace of the world.

Reports conflicted over the numbers arriving in Bethlehem for Christmas, but what is certain is that this biblical city has been destroyed as a living entity whose inhabitants can work, be educated and live viable family lives, by the hideous Israeli wall. It strangled the city. Banksy’s graffiti accurately conveys its viciousness and cruelty. Bethlehem, however, is only one of the many Palestinian cities, towns and villages that continue to suffer from 500 roadblocks and the ever-constricting wall.

Gaza, especially, is a land of nightmares. At a UN conference I attended in New York a few weeks ago, we were told that 80 per cent of its inhabitants subsist on UN handouts. Britain’s international development department is one of the most prominent donors. But alleviation of suffering, though worthy, does not contribute to a solution to this appalling disaster. Only political action can bring it to an end.

There are those who believe that the gathering at Annapolis at the end of 2007 could kick-start negotiations, leading, eventually, to a two-state solution. I am not among them. My view is that Annapolis was a complete waste of time.

This was borne out by the first post-Annapolis meeting between Ehud Olmert, Israel’s ineffable prime minister, and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, which broke up without a scintilla of progress having been achieved. This was not simply due to the Israelis’ fraudulence but to the fact that Abbas and his Fatah party on their own cannot deliver. In the Palestinian elections two years ago – elections verified as totally valid by outside observers – it was not Fatah but Hamas that won.

Yet Hamas was not present at Annapolis – not present because not invited. The smart move would have been to invite Hamas and impose on them the responsibility for not being there, should they have decided to boycott.

It is undeniable that Hamas has been responsible for savage terrorist acts. Yet so was Mau Mau in Kenya. So was the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. Eventually both had to be involved in negotiations. So will Hamas, if there is ever to be a solution for Palestine-Israel. When Yitzhak Rabin was Israeli defence minister, I told him that if he did not negotiate with Fatah, he would have to negotiate with Hamas.

Abba Eban, the most eloquent of Israeli statesman, said that you make peace by talking to your enemies. The Israelis and the appalling Bush administration have not learned this lesson. Indeed, they bear full responsibility for first the recalcitrance and now the stubbornness of Hamas.

When Fatah was the elected governing party in the Palestinian territories, Bush and the then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon (still, after two years, obscenely maintained in a coma) imposed impossible conditions on them prior to negotiations. The consequence was the election of Hamas. Instead of accepting reality, the US and the EU imposed a boycott on the legitimately elected Hamas, leading directly to more suffering for the Palestinian people, political stalemate, and the Hamas military take-over in Gaza.

It is not as though any of the Israelis’ short-term objectives have been met. The three Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas and Hezbollah 18 months ago remain prisoners – like all the Palestinian elected assembly members kidnapped by the Israelis. As for the long-term, the time is not far distant when there will be more Palestinians (including Israeli Arabs) than Jews in the former mandated Palestine, and if the Israelis and the US continue to be deliberately blind to the true situation the idea of a Jewish Israeli state will only be maintained by even greater oppression and apartheid on the South African model.

Yet South African apartheid collapsed in the end, just as apparently impregnable Stalinist Communism collapsed. Only hard-headed realism can save both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Yes, Hamas is very far from an attractive interlocutor; but it is there and will not go away. Yes, Hamas fires rockets into Israel and, despite all the force of the demoralised Israeli army, will continue to do so. Yes, Israelis like, recently, the two soldier hitchhikers in the West Bank, will continue to be murdered just as far more Palestinians are murdered regularly by the Israeli army.

Yet realism demands that this situation be resolved by negotiation, not by homicide. I have pressed our own foreign secretary to bring Hamas into negotiation. I, and others like me, will go on pressing. My hope is, that with even a moiety of good sense, 2008 will end better than it has begun for both Palestinians and Israelis. But I am not counting on it.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook