Phares: Hamas Remains Obstacle to Middle East Peace Negotiations

Friday, 22 Mar 2013 04:23 PM

By Cyrus Afzali and Kathleen Walter

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Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares believes that the influence of outside organizations remains the biggest obstacle to keeping the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel from resuming.

In an interview with Newsmax TV, Phares, who predicted the Arab Spring in his book The Coming Revolution, said Israel is concerned that control of major institutions in the Palestinian territory is split between Iran and those loyal to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

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“Short of having the Obama administration working hard on removing that Iranian and Brotherhood influence from Gaza and working hard with both Palestinians and Israelis and other Arabs to disarm Hamas, everything that we see on TV and hear about in statements is not going to work,” Phares said. “You’ve got to have two parties: Israel and a Palestinian democratic movement without Hamas for the peace process to win.”

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He said the desire to take Hamas out of the peace process is one of the reasons President Barack Obama has taken a tough public stance against Israel in regard to settlements.

“Over the past four years and now into this new mandate, we see the Obama
administration is listening to the advice that tells them the tougher you are on Israel, the more you’re going to get credibility from the Palestinians and from the Arab side, etc. The mistake here is that the Arab world has changed and the Palestinian question is not the central one,” he said. “What President Obama needs to do is to be tough on Hamas, and on Iranian interference, not just in Israel and among the Palestinians, but also in the Arab world and Syria.”

Phares said taking this approach could see moderates emerge that may even lead to a coalition of moderates from Israel, Arab nations, and others throughout the Middle East that could further isolate Iran.

“Instead, the advice he’s getting is to isolate Israel to get credibility among the Palestinians and that is not going to create a real solution on the ground,” Phares said.

Turning to Iran, Obama last week wrote a letter addressing the Iranian people and the nation’s government advocating for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear weapons issue. Phares said Obama should have spoken directly to the people, particularly the pro-democracy opposition.


“We are now in the fifth year of this administration and the letter should have been used to engage in real partnership with the green movement, the democracy forces inside Iran, to create conditions for change from the inside rather than rely solely on sanctions that at this point aren’t working,” he said.

Phares said the administration’s lack of a strategic policy on Iran is also hurting its ability to have positive influence throughout the Middle East.

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“If the administration doesn’t have a strategic policy of confronting the Iranian regime, it’s going to be meeting that regime everywhere in the region. Syria is another examine, as its regime is using support from Iran. When we left Iraq, the Iranian influence came through Iraq and into Syria to support the Assad regime,” he said. “The administration cannot take serious strategic action against the Assad regime because the Iranians would intervene. If we don’t have a policy on confronting Iran, we’re not going to be able to have a real policy on confronting the Assad regime.”


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