Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Hamas Question Puts State Dept. Blog on Defensive (BackSpin)

DipNote, the official blog of the US State Dept. is on the defensive after recently posing this Question of the Week:

Should the U.S. engage Hamas in the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians?

Correspondents covering the State Dept. grilled spokesman Sean McCormack about it. Full transcript here.

QUESTION: What if you get this overwhelming response that the American public thinks that Hamas should be engaged in the peace process? Are you taking the temperature, or what?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. You know, Elise, I think you understand the purpose of the blog. There are some instances where you want to understand what's going on out in the public. It doesn't mean you're doing a poll or taking a survey and you're changing the policy. Certainly, in this case, there's -- you know, our policy is policy. It's not going to change. There are legal as well as policy and moral requirements for doing what we do.

QUESTION: I mean, why -- why even raise the question? Why generate a question about a matter on which there are legal, moral and policy reasons that you are not going to change the policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Why do you ask me questions about Hamas and the U.S. involvement in Hamas? It's a topical question that people are discussing. You know, I -- there's certainly -- certainly, there is nothing about -- nothing wrong with and -- you know, asking a question and having people give their views.

QUESTION: I ask you questions to find out if the policy is changing, but you've just told me that the policy is not changing but you still ask the question on your website, which doesn't -- which still doesn't quite make sense to me.

MR. MCCORMACK: I -- maybe you don't understand the nature of blogs, but it's not a matter of a statement of policy.

Negotiations with an organization that explicitly avows Israel's destruction at every opportunity are anathema to many Israelis. What could Israel and Hamas actually talk about? Is there anything short of voluntary national suicide that would satisfy Hamas? Negotiating with Hamas would prove that terrorism, not diplomacy, is the way to gain Israeli concessions. It would also gravely undermine whatever residual legitimacy Mahmoud Abbas still enjoys. Hamas' proposal to negotiate a long-term ceasefire is entirely unacceptable. If Hamas had its way, Israel would have to cease all counterterrorist operations not only in Gaza, but the West Bank, as well - the only thing that has kept Abbas in power and the rockets out of Tel Aviv. 

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