Periodically, advocates of negotiation suggest that the hostility toward Jews expressed by Hamas is somehow mutable. But in years of listening, I haven't heard much to suggest that its anti-Semitism is insincere. Like Hezbollah, Hamas believes that God is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine. Both groups are rhetorically pitiless, though, again, Hamas sometimes appears to follow the lead of Hezbollah.I heard a spokesman for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign on the radio yesterday dismiss the very notion that Hamas was committed to the destruction of Israel. I was dying to ask him what evidence he had that Hamas is not committed to that goal? Jeffrey Goldberg has at least gone in search of such evidence and not found it.
I asked him the question I always ask of Hamas leaders: Could you agree to anything more than a tactical cease-fire with Israel? I felt slightly ridiculous asking: A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks at Camp David. Mr. Rayyan answered the question as I thought he would, saying that a long-term cease-fire would be unnecessary, because it will not take long for the forces of Islam to eradicate Israel.
Goldberg sums up the difficulty of Israel's position.
There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.
The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.