The South African invitation to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is a very sensible and positive move, in keeping with the best traditions of peacemaking whereby one must speak with and politically engage all parties to a conflict if one hopes to resolve it peacefully.
The African National Congress eventually spoke to the white minority South African apartheid government and negotiated a sensible transition to democratic majority rule. The South African government today is a powerful global symbol of a legitimate national liberation struggle, and a movement that made the transition to peaceful coexistence in the wake of a politically negotiated settlement of the conflict. We just saw the same thing culminate this week in a new united government of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, after decades of bloodshed.
The same process must be given a chance to play out in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and speaking to Hamas is a crucial step in such a process. It is not realistic to accept that there is one standard of conflict resolution for the whole world and another separate one for Israel alone -- which is the logic of the Israeli boycott of the democratically elected Hamas government as a partner in Palestine. The South African government has acted with courage, realism and appropriate boldness. Hamas, its Palestinian partners, and Israel should reciprocate in the same spirit.
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