Monday, May. 08, 2006

Ismail Haniya

Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader who is now Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, has developed the reputation of being a moderate. The term needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Haniya, 43, rose up the Hamas organizational ladder as a close aide to the late Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the group's founder and spiritual leader. But while Haniya has promised since his election in January to clean up corruption, establish law and order, and revive the Palestinian economy, nowhere in his statements is there a place for peace with Israel. Which means that even the illusion of peacemaking is over. You cannot make peace with a group that rejects it as a principle and legitimizes terrorism. And that is what Hamas demonstrated on April 17 when its officials called the fatal bombing of a falafel stand in Tel Aviv an "act of self-defense." If Haniya's Hamas wants to act like an opposition group even when it has responsibility for governing, it will merely isolate itself and damage the Palestinian cause.

Ross is a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East