Is Roger Cohen the most naïve columnist writing for The New York Times, or just another example of a foreign policy “realist” gone over the edge? In his latest Sunday column, Cohen provides another rationale for why the United States should deal with both Hezbollah and Hamas, rather than treat them as terrorist organizations.
According to Cohen, both groups are simply political entities, part of what a British Foreign Office spokesman calls part of the “national fabric” in Lebanon, to which Cohen adds Hamas in Gaza. Realist doctrine calls for other nations to accept this as a given, regardless of what policies the groups support, what doctrines they adhere to, and what subversion of the international order they engage in. It does not matter, therefore, that Hezbollah and Hamas see their raison d’être as destroying Israel.
Like others, Cohen says the U.S. should approach the “moderate Hamas elements” and work to engineer “a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.” Of course, just as he wrote this, Hamas forced the Palestinian Authority to remove Salem Fayyad as prime minister, since the American trained economist is considered too friendly to a two-state solution and has been responsible for economic progress on the West Bank. Fortunately, the State Department and Secretary Clinton do not seem to be taking Roger Cohen’s advice. Clinton is now demanding that the U.S. will only recognize a unity government if Fayyad is reappointed to the position of prime minister.
When Fayyad resigned, PA President Mahmoud Abbas explained that his stepping down would aid negotiations with Hamas, since it would “enhance and support the national dialogue,” which means that only if the PA got rid of its most competent and least corrupt official, would Hamas even talk with Abbas’ government. As Haaretz explained, his resignation was “meant as a confidence-building measure.” That firing such a man is viewed as confidence building says a great deal.
In his editorial, Cohen goes on to say that US conditions for dealing with Hamas are counter-productive. The US as well as the EU demands that Hamas recognize Israel, forswear terrorism and accept previous PA commitments. But Cohen thinks all of this is irrelevant. He simply wants us to ignore the 1988 Hamas charter, which he acknowledges “is vile.” Let’s not get “hung up” on words, he implies.