Richard Haass President Bush’s envoy to Northern Ireland and now head of a leading foreign affairs advisory board, has a piece in the Financial Times (£) headlined “Israel should learn from Northern Ireland.” The first lessons are not those touted by the former paramilitaries but those learned by the governments. As he has said before, Haass puts Israel in a roughly equivalent role to that of the British government in the peace process.
Israel needs to put Hamas to the test. It can do this by putting forward the outlines of a fair and comprehensive settlement and a reasonable path for getting there. The US should work closely with Israel in framing this proposal. Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, should use the rest of her time in the region to urge this course. Her goal should be to stimulate a debate in the Arab and Palestinian worlds that would press Hamas to change its ways or risk being caught between those who are even more radical and those prepared to compromise.
This was the dynamic created in Belfast. In the end, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – the leaders of Northern Ireland’s Hamas equivalent – met the British challenge..