Talking with the enemy

Rather than waffle on his stated intent to talk with Hamas and other enemies, Barack Obama would do well to focus more on explaining why such talks are necessary. Mohamad Bazzi, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former Middle East bureau chief of Newsday (where we worked together), gave a very clear explanation this week in Obama's hometown newspaper. Beyond the fact that no peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians is possible without Hamas, he notes that there are divisions within Hamas:"Hamas is not an entirely cohesive organization: There is a political wing living in exile, a political wing inside the Palestinian territories and a military wing. Each wing represents a different trend within Hamas and much of the power rests with the exiled leaders, who tend to be the most hard-line."It's easier for the exiles to be hard-line; they don't live amid the misery in Gaza. Bazzi continues: "Different factions within a group can have different interests: The exiled Hamas leaders are eager to continue fighting, while some of the internal leaders are open to dialogue. It's possible to divide these factions from one another. But the United States and Europe will never know unless they try."Since there is still so much talk about the importance of the Catholic vote, let's add that few people reached out to more tyrants and dictators than Pope John Paul II did. Talking with Hamas is the right thing to do, strategically and morally.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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