May 18, 2014

Former president Jimmy Carter’s central arguments [“A new chance for optimism?,” Washington Forum, May 16] suggested that prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace are not as dead as some think and that the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation should be welcomed rather than condemned. These are points well taken. However, he did not directly address the preconditions for Hamas’s participation in negotiations and governance insisted upon by the United States, the European Union and Israel.

If those imposing the preconditions want lasting peace, they must reassess their demands, especially as preconditions. Full recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of reasonable previous agreements are desirable. Ultimately, Hamas will have to agree to such conditions if it is to be regarded as a legitimate participant in Palestinian governance and the international community.

However, demanding that these conditions be met before Hamas can enter negotiations amounts to requiring of Hamas an unconditional surrender and a humiliating acknowledgment that its resistance against what it sees as an illegitimate occupier of its homeland has been wrong in all respects. Is it realistic or reasonable to expect Hamas to meet such demands?

A sustained cease-fire, Hamas’s de facto recognition of Israel and suspension of judgment on past agreements are all that should be expected of Hamas at the start of negotiations.

Edward C. McCarthy, Vienna, Maine

David Ignatius restated the worn idea that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are the primary obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians [“A Mideast peace process in tatters,” Washington Forum, May 16]. As most such critiques omit, for every one Jew in the West Bank, there are five Arabs in Israel (as demarcated by the 1967 lines).

Why is it that so many Arabs can live peacefully in the Jewish state, but the presence of a much smaller number of Jews in the putative Arab state is an obstacle to peace? The real obstacle to peace occurred when Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, announced that the Palestinians will never recognize the Jewish state. There cannot be peace when one party says that the other party has no right to exist. That was the real “poof moment.”

Andrew M. Caplan, Arlington

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