Dan Diker: Who is listening to Arab warnings about Hamas?

Dan Diker is a foreign policy analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has filed the following report with us.

Hamas rockets continue to smash into southern Israel today, but this morning’s headline in Israel’s Maariv daily newspaper will likely not be discussed in Washington media, diplomatic, and policy circles: “Arab Countries to Israel: Cut off the Heads of Hamas’ Leaders.” Israel’s Maariv reports unnamed heads of Arab states that have passed diplomatic messages to Jerusalem encouraging Israel to kill Iranian funded and trained Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’ firing of scores of rockets against Southern Israel during the current “cease fire”.

What some Middle East policy analysts and diplomats in Washington may not realize with respect to increasingly optimistic Western assessments of Hamas as a diplomatic partner is that today’s news report in Israel reflects more the rule in Arab capitals than the exception. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed his concern to the Arab press that “Egypt shares a border with Iran following Hamas’ May 2008 rocket assault on the Israeli city of Ashkelon with Iranian manufactured grad rockets.

Earlier this month Egyptian Foreign Minister Egypt’s Ahmed Abul Gheit warned that Cairo would never accept an “Islamic emirate” in Gaza — a key stated goal of Hamas. Mohammad Abdallah Al Zulfa, member of The Saudi Shoura Council said yesterday on the Arab network’s Alhurra news program that “Iran is the big threat in today’s world, supporting all the terrorists from Hamas to Hezbollah to some other terrorists that we don’t know their names yet”. “Iran destabilized the region by supporting all the illegal activities and activists such as Hamas….”

Strangely, while some of Washington’s closest Arab allies are recommending Israel kill the Hamas leadership a recent report by the Saban Center of the Brookings Institute, “Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the next President”, recommends that Israel and the United States talk directly with the Hamas while jettisoning the U.S. led Quartet’s standing pre-conditions for dealing the Iranian backed Muslim Brotherhood group.

Despite the Saban Center call for easing the price of western diplomatic entry to Hamas, this author heard higher decibel warnings recently of Hamas’ incorrigibility from Lebanese analysts as well as Palestinian and Jordanian seniors at a recent conference in Rome on Islamic radicalism as the major threat to stability in the Middle East.

Palestinians, Jordanians, and GCC member state leaders are pointing out that Hamas can not be bargained with, “tamed”, or enticed with carrots for the long haul. A Palestinian Authority official reminded me earlier this week that Hamas received two million dollars from Lashkar e Taibe (the group that massacred nearly 200 in Mumbai this month) during a December 2006 meeting in Pakistan that was first reported in the Italian newspaper Corriera Della Serra.

Washington and Western allies would do well to take notice. There is clear and growing concern and even incredulity among not a few Arab leaders and former officials at what they see as underlying naiveté behind what appears to be a softening of the US and Israeli posture towards Hamas.

I can’t find an English-language version of the Maariv story cited by Dan, but it is discussed in this Arab Middle East report.

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