Hamas could be swept out of power by the Arab Spring if the Palestinian Authority is able to show “tangible” results from peace negotiations with Israel, a top US diplomat said Thursday.
“The Palestinians are no more immune to the currents of change and demand for democratization, reform and freedom than any of the other people in the region,” said Ambassador David Hale, the US envoy for Middle East Peace.
“I think you will see those same forces affect Hamas because clearly their leadership is not characterized by any of those words.”
Hale cautioned that while Hamas is vulnerable, it will only lose power when the Palestinian people are given a real choice between peace and violence.
“That choice can only be put to the Palestinian people in the context of negotiations in which there is actually something tangible to be judged,” Hale told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
“It has to move beyond rhetoric which is unfortunately all we have right now to show for our efforts.”
While the security and economic reforms that have been achieved by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank are “valued” they “aren’t enough,” Hale said.
When the Palestinian people “see that the leadership that is committed to peace has something to offer, then I think then you will see a very different dynamic underway,” he added.
Hale cautioned that Palestinian attempts to seek statehood at the United Nations — including an upcoming vote to grant Palestine full member status at the UN cultural agency UNESCO — could instead complicate, delay or even “derail” the peace process.
“Peace will not come through statements or actions or votes in the United Nations,” he said, adding that such action will simply raise expectations “that we fear will be frustrated because it will do nothing to change the situation on the ground the day after the vote.”
He urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume direct peace negotiations but offered no hint as to when those negotiations could begin.