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Talk about talking

MadEast recently talked to a former Western official who has managed to gain the trust of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. He thinks it’s worth keeping channels open to these organisations. Because MadEast likes contradictions, as in Middle East peace process, here follows a reconstruction of a recent chat with the mandarin turned mediator in the appropriately suave setting of a swank hotel in the region.

The reason for the interview was the violence in and around Gaza but the conversation touched on larger issues, such as what is the good of talking to such Islamist groups and whether to order the eggs Benedict or the salmon omelette. Needless to say the answer to all the above was yes but go easy on the pepper.

On Gaza, the former official pointed out that Hamas felt “squeezed”, a totally unacceptable concept in Islam, and had therefore decided to “throw the cards up in the air”, very much like the Americans in Iraq but then different. The Israelis, who famously have trouble  keeping their H’s apart, mistook Hamas for Hezbollah, jumped through a time warp, did a 180 degree turn and started re-fighting the war of 2006.

But, don’t despair, nuclear strikes, tidal waves or the return of Saladin could not affect the outcome of the current round of fighting. Israel and Hamas will come to a modus vivendi once they’ve looked it up in the dictionary. Sadly, the former official predicted that this would include “a return to normalcy” for Gaza, a cruel fate by any measure.

Among the victims of the current fighting may be the undemocratic Arab regimes…  to be more specific, only the undemocratic Arab regimes that are too cuddly with Israel, such as Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians’ own Mahmoud Abbas. The former official thinks that the mood in the Arab street has changed since all the other wars and intifadah’s, because of Iraq, Afghanistan and the 2008 hummus and falafel conflict. The West had better start getting used to the idea of dropping the corrupt, human-rights violating and illegitimate regimes it supports now and cozying up to corrupt, human-rights violating, illegitimate but Islamist regimes, because that is what that the people want.

On the whole the former official said, the West had better realise that “long overdue change” was coming to the Middle East where, among other things, ideas on interior design have indeed stagnated since the mid-1970’s. But the West should not necessarily view this as a negative development, instead we should adjust our ideas of what is negative, of what is positive and even of what is neutral, except in car gearboxes.

Freezing out groups like Hamas as if it’s the in-laws will not do, said the former official. In most other conflicts openings would be explored systematically, over some good meals and large quantities of Chateau Lafite 1982, but not in the case of Hamas. MadEast is open to suggestions as to why this is the case. Here are some multiple choice options: A-Due to the chaotic nature of the Middle East nothing ever can be systematic. B-The Israelis really keep confusing their H’s and are actually negotiating with an Egyptian at Harrods. C-Hamas prefers the Chateau Lafite 1990.
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