The San Francisco Chronicle’s June 26 editorial entitled “Stop-and-go on Mideast truce” misrepresents the U.S. position vis-a-vis Hamas and distorts the widely quoted words of President Bush regarding the group’s potential declaration of a cease-fire, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The editorial takes the quote out of context, wrongly linking President Bush’s skeptical comment to Israeli counter-terrorism measures. In fact, his reference was to an ultimate dismantling of the terrorist group Hamas. When asked for his reaction to a potential cease-fire by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah at a press conference with European Union leaders on June 25, the President stated:
I’ll believe it when I see it, knowing the history of the terrorists in the Middle East. But the true test for Hamas and terrorist organizations is the complete dismantlement of their terrorist networks, their capacity to blow up the peace process ... . It’s one thing to make a verbal agreement. But in order for there to be peace in the Middle East, we must see organizations such as Hamas dismantled, and then we’ll have peace. Then we’ll have a chance for peace ... In order for there to be peace, Hamas must be dismantled [emphasis added].
The U.S. administration has been united on this point, and Colin Powell and others have repeated the group’s need to disband. Even Hamas knows the pressure is on. Witness the statement of one of its top leaders to thousands last week in Gaza: “Powell is considering Hamas now an enemy of peace.”
Similarly, the Chronicle fails to convey the centrality of an end to terror as a first step in any Mideast peace deal. In a list of “difficult issues standing in the way of success in the peace effort,” terrorism is omitted entirely.
Counter to the editorial, “obstacles ... hidden in the hearts of leading players” do not constitute the main stumbling blocks to a lasting Mideast peace. The U.S. president has said it, the Secretary of State has said it, and many administration officials have repeated it. It is Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the war of terror on Israelis that block the way to peace.