PA Could Okay Deal without Hamas

The Middle East Times talks to Maen Rashid Areikat, deputy head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) negotiations affairs department, who has this to say about the divide in Palestinian leadership:

“Hamas is not only aPalestinian problem. Hamas is a regional problem; Hamas is aninternational problem,” said Areikat. “You cannot simply make themdisappear.”

“We don’t have the military power to remove Hamas by force,” said Areikat, “and we don’t want Israel to do it for us.”

So far, not that much different than what most people have been lamenting for the past two years. What’s interesting about Areikat’s comments, though, is his conclusion:

The only way Hamas can be weakened, said the PLO negotiator, is by the Palestinian Authority and Israel reaching an agreement.

There’s a certain logic to the idea of striking a solid deal in the West Bank that, once it proves durable and, more importantly, beneficial to Palestinians, provides a credible alternative to what Hamas is peddling in Gaza. It would have been nice if that logic had been applied before Hamas’ election victory and subsequent armed takeover of the Strip. But that leads to Areikat’s second conclusion:

However, nothing is likely tohappen in the Middle East without the “immediate, active, full-time,even-handed engagement from the next administration,” said Areikat.

Still, this is the first optimistic note I’ve heard sounded on this subject in a while.