My friend and fellow Lib Dem blogger Charlotte Henry alerted me to the piece in today's Guardian by Ismail Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas administration in Gaza (an administration which, incidentally, came to power not in an election, but in a violent coup in 2007). Writing in a personal capacity, I have just submitted the following comment on Mr Haniyeh's piece on the Guardian's website:
Nobody would be more pleased than would I if Hamas regenerated into a body that wants Palestinians to live in peace with Israelis. It sadly has yet to do so.
A wise person once said to me: "In the Israel/Palestine conflict, you must ask people: do you care what happens to the people on the other side of the conflict? Anyone who is pro-Israeli must care what happens to Palestinians. Anyone who is pro-Palestinian must care what happens to Israelis."
The people who live in Israel (Jewish and non-Jewish, gay and straight, male and female) are millions of human beings (just as the Palestinians are millions of human beings). At the moment, the people who live in Israel live in a liberal democracy that recognises the rights of women, gays and religious minorities. A flawed liberal democracy, like most liberal democracies, but a liberal democracy nonetheless. When I say "the people who live in Israel", I mean 'Israel proper', that is, Israel inside its internationally recognised, pre-1967 borders.
Under Mr Haniyeh's vision, what would happen to all of those people who now live in Israel? Would a Hamas-ruled, single state of Palestine be one in which there is freedom of worship and a free press? Would it have the death penalty? Would it have a secret police that detains and tortures people? Would it allow freedom for LGBT people and for women? Would it be a society in which the government, once freely elected, sought re-election in regular free elections, rather than seeking to rule in perpetuity without elections?
Hamas' track record in Gaza, under Mr Haniyeh's rule as Prime Minister, does not inspire confidence on any of these points.