German press on Merkel's snubbing of Hamas
Even Der Spiegel, long a supporter of all things Palestine, finds Hamas distasteful. In this online article they report on what the German mainstream press thinks of Chancellor Merkel's recent decision to not meet with Hamas.
The business daily Handelsblatt shows understanding for Merkel's reluctance to be the first western leader to deal with Hamas. Nevertheless, the paper believes eventually both Israel and the west will be forced to work with the Muslim extremists. "No one wants to be the first to break the ice or get their hands dirty," writes the paper. "But the reality is that the Palestinian territories are so tightly tied to Israel that a dialogue or at least coordination with Hamas is unavoidable." The paper is hopeful that Hamas' participation in any future Palestinian government could be a moderating influence on the group. "After its election victory, Hamas should have the chance to work out and present its program for governing. Who knows, maybe a critical dialogue with the west will help it find the right way. The west gives up nothing by doing so, but rather simply respects a democratic decision." A political cartoon next to the editorial has a less rosy take on the situation: The drawing depicts Merkel talking to Abbas with a gigantic shoe labeled "Hamas" squishing him. "Yes, the pressure has increased a bit," reads the caption.
The left-wing Berliner Zeitung comments that during her visit Merkel will be emphasising the basic German position of solidarity with Israel. This is manifest in her demand that Hamas turn its back on terrorism and recognize Israel. "Her position carries some weight as she could be seen as a representative of the European Union, which supports the Palestinian Authority in the form of millions of euros worth of aid, which Hamas would also be dependent upon," the daily opines. However, the paper also points out that "it is not enough to make demands and then wait to see if and when Hamas comes around." Merkel and the Israeli government may have stipulated that a renunciation of violence is the basic precondition for talks but "in truth, they both know full well that this can only be the first aim in any dialogue with the new rulers in the Palestinian areas." The paper predicts that -- in the interest of Israeli security -- talks with the Hamas leadership will not only take place soon but that they will take place before there is any indication that Hamas have turned their backs on violence. "Yet this will not happen in the open," it writes. "The Middle East is entering a new phase of secret diplomacy."
The center-left newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung makes it clear that Merkel faces an extremely difficult and delicate task: "With the eyes of the world upon her, she is entering the minefield of the Middle East." The paper comments that she somehow has to show solidarity with the Israelis, without being used as an instrument in their election campaign, and she must also avoid any contact with the Hamas leadership. Merkel will also be trying to persuade President Abbas not to resign as "he seems weary of office" and is being blamed by his own movement for their loss of power. This weekend he had to cancel a trip to the Gaza Strip out of fear of being attacked by furious Fatah mobs. "Merkel's visit to Ramallah on Monday should serve to strengthen his position. In the future Abbas should serve as a bridge between the Hamas government and the west," writes the paper. The western states need Abbas so that they don't have to have any embarrassing encounters with a Hamas leadership that has not sworn off terrorism. The SZ also points out that Merkel's delicate mission to the Middle East is a continuation of the intermediary role played by former foreign minister Joschka Fischer, who had to try to dispel Israel's mistrust of the EU while at the same time reminding the Palestinians of their responsibilities to do all they could to tackle terrorism.
Let Hamas try to govern without Euros and dollars for a while. There is nothing like an angry mob at the gates demanding that political promises be kept to bring leaders around. In the meantime, Israel should continue targeting Hamas's leadership. The combination of economic pressure and fear for one's safety can yet work.