Egyptian consul: Vote for Hamas was vote against lack of results

The United States, Israel and Egypt cannot afford to waste time on rhetoric in dealing with the newly elected Hamas Party in Palestine, said Consul General of Egypt Abderahman Salaheldin.

One week after Hamas shocked the world by upending the incumbent Fatah party in a democratic Palestinian election, Salaheldin told the U’s Model Arab League in a luncheon Thursday that the United States should act now and push Israel toward negotiations with Hamas.

Although Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, Salaheldin said opposition is generally the nature of the parties involved in any peace negotiation.

“You don’t conclude peace with friends, you conclude peace with enemies,” Salaheldin said. “We need to stop wasting time declaring demands in Hamas before moving to negotiations. That just feeds the extremists and maximists.”

He said the popular vote for Hamas was a vote against the lack of results from 10 years of peace negotiations. That absence, he said, has given firepower to those who seek to radicalize Islam against the West, and if something is not done quickly, both Israel and Palestine will grow more radical.

While Egypt’s policy has always been one of moderation, calling for peace, openness and dialogue in times of conflict, Salaheldin said the rejectionists have simply grown tired of waiting.

One example came shortly after Hamas was elected, as the leader of Hezbollah-a Shi’a Islamist resistance movement in Lebanon-declared the election yet another example of how people hate Israel.

“He points to the Lebanese who forced Israel out of their country and the Palestinians who pushed them out of the Gaza Strip through military resistance while negotiations produced nothing,” Salaheldin said. “Our argument is that the same could have been done without the loss of lives and without casualties.”

Salaheldin said cooperation between Egypt and the United States is fundamental both for Israel and Palestine in negotiations. Egypt is important because it has dealt with all Palestinian and Israeli parties throughout the conflict, and the United States is the only nation capable of pushing Israel.

Salaheldin said he hopes the election results will challenge Hamas to provide real solutions that enable coexistence.

“They can’t live on criticizing what’s going on. They need to develop a way out,” Salaheldin said. “All the factors are there, but they need political will and leadership. If they don’t get it from the United States, it will probably increase support for the Clash of Civilizations theory and radicalize both sides (Israel and Palestine).”

The U’s Model Arab League will represent Egypt in coming competitions.

Representatives who heard Salaheldin speak were impressed with his simple but frank words.

“I really liked that he said you make peace with enemies, not friends,” said Ryan Bond, a business graduate student. “It’s so simple, but so deep.”

Ryan Williams, a freshman in Middle East studies, agreed.

“We’re just lucky to have him here right after Hamas won the election,” Williams said. “We’re lucky to be in such a small setting, having him talk to less than 20 of us.”

Salaheldin wrapped up with a message of hope.

“I hope that ultimately (Egypt) will be right,” Salaheldin said. “Only through peaceful negotiations, this will be resolved.”

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