I happen to believe that a terrorist is a terrorist, and can never be a "freedom fighter." It's in the tactics. Anyone who shows little regard for civilian life, certainly on the opposite side but also on their own, in pursuing their destructive means is a terrorist. This disregard may take the form of dressing as a civilian and hiding among the civilian population, hiding and attacking from and/or into mosques or other civilian areas, suicide bombings designed to take out anyone near, including civilians, or lobbing rockets willy nilly into civilian areas with little regard for military targets, among others.
It's that latter that has been the characteristic terrorist activity of Hamas. And now an advisor to PE Obama thinks it's a good idea to talk with them.
Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni said if Obama hopes to forge a peace deal, he needs to do it at the beginning of his administration.
"You make a commitment that no matter what happens, you'll stick with it," Zinni said on CNN's "American Morning." "We have enough agreements in principle that never worked out. I would say -- start from the beginning, be determined, stick with it and don't repeat the mistakes of the past and the processes of the past that did not work."
In order for the new administration to engage with Hamas, Zinni said the militant group must be willing to end its rocket attacks and violence against Israel and commit to a peace process.
Well, that's the real problem, isn't it. How long do you give them to prove they've given up the rocket attacks? A day? A week? A month? A Friedman unit? How long is enough to know that they've given up the attacks. Gen. Zinni's suggestion is really a non-sequitur. He's urging PE Obama to forge a peace deal early in the term. There isn't enough time early on to be certain of any commitment by Hamas to ending terrorism. Talking to them early based on such a flimsy commitment is a bad idea.
And it's dangerous. It legitimizes a terrorist organization by giving the rockets they've been firing at Israel the legitimacy of a point of negotiation. The position has to be that there can be no peace deal as long as the rockets continue, and only the side on the receiving end of the explosions can legitimately decide if the commitment to stop is real. Israel's offensive against Hamas in response to the attacks is the attempt to force Hamas to give up the rockets without negotiating on them. It's a "give them up or we'll make you give them up" ultimatum. Hamas should choose wisely, and the Obama administration, when it's their turn, should realize that interfering in that decision process legitimizes terrorism.
12/30/08 1220: Ed Morrissey notes that this approach, directly targeting Hamas with their offensive, is one thing that hadn't been tried yet, and lists a boatload of others that had.
Israel has tried military action, occupation, withdrawal, a peace plan (Oslo), another peace plan (Wye River), yet another peace plan (Annapolis), blockade, ending the blockade, and a series of so-called “truces” that allowed the Palestinians to play a triangle offense and provoke Israel into action. What do all of these actions have in common? None of them worked.
...It’s about a lack of options in dealing with a group determined to conduct terrorist attacks and destroy Israel until its last breath. A targeted campaign against Hamas while avoiding a wider war is the one option the Israelis still had yet to try.