The leader of Lebanon's Islamist Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has said his group will never recognise Israel's right to exist.
He was responding to a US suggestion that both Hezbollah and the Palestinian faction Hamas should recognise Israel before expecting any US engagement.
"We reject the American conditions," he said. "As long as Hezbollah exists, it will never recognise Israel."
Israel and Hezbollah's armed wing fought a bloody conflict in 2006.
Mr Nasrallah made the statement rejecting the US conditions for talks said in a speech marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
Personally, I think Hizballah is a lot more intimidated by Barack Hussein Obama than it ever was by the cartoon villain George W. Bush. It would be like if Iran voted in a moderate president and we still had to deal with the issue that the Iranian population still wants nuclear power and feels they have a right to it. It's all well and good when some cartoonish clown like Ahmadinejad or Bush is in charge. When a conciliatory moderate is in charge but your interests still aren't alligned, that's when you see the real differences -- and you can't blame all your disagreements on the other side.
I have two thoughts:
- Maybe it's about time we start taking some Islamist groups seriously and at their word. When Hamas or Hizballah says there is no circumstance under which they would recognize Israel or accept a two-state solution, maybe we should, you know, believe them.
- Maybe we shouldn't think about how we are going to pursue our own interests without first seeing whether or not we have partners willing to meet us halfway. Hizballah can put the most enlightened spokesperson in front of the organization -- Ibrahim Mousawi, Hussein Rahal, whoever -- but if it looks as if there is no middle ground on which we can meet, there is really nothing we can talk about.
What if the Obama Administration said, "Hey, Hizballah, if we guarantee Israel will not attack you, will you lay down your arms?" I'm guessing the response would be something along the lines of "a) let us check with Tehran first and b) well, we've been telling our Shia supporters that these crazy Sunnis in Lebanon are a threat as well, so that's really not an option. Plus, they think our hard-won seat at the table in Beirut would go away if we disarmed. So, no."
The bottom line is, we the United States made things easy on Islamist groups from 2001-2009. With hard-liners in Washington, they could always deflect blame onto the United States and our inflexible policies. Now, I suspect, they will have to adjust to the new realities in Washington -- or risk isolating many of the supporters they have gathered in recent years.
One more thought: this new Neko Case album is quite good.