US and Israel – A New Approach Towards Hamas?

Posted in Broader Middle East | 27-Apr-06 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

Manuela Paraipan is WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East".

Interview with Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

The following is an interview by WSN's Manuela Paraipan with Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi, journalist for the Saudi Arabian newspaper al-Madina in Jeddah.

WSN: The Palestinians finally got a fairly democratic election process. They took the opportunity to elect Hamas, a party with extremist views it has never hidden from the public. Do you believe that Hamas will continue to seek Israel's destruction as stated in its charter?

DR. BATARFI: It might, just as Israel might seek Hamas's destruction, but dreams are not reality.

WSN: How important is the initiative of Ehud Olmert to draw the final borders of Israel?

DR. BATARFI: Sharon started this and it looks as if Ehud is going down the same road. Should this be so, it is more than important. It is a disaster. It means the end of all peace deals and projects. We go back to square one: War.

WSN: President Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map, and just weeks after this declaration he denied the Holocaust and suggested that Israel be moved to Europe. How did you perceive these public declarations?

DR. BATARFI: Rhetoric. None of these threats and suggestions is going to happen, but he doesn't care. His message is meant for the domestic audience.

WSN: The establishment of the Wahhabi extremist ideology is not in Mecca or Medina, but rather in Riyadh. How do you explain the paradox of having friends and foes of the United States in the same al-Saud ruling family? What would happen if the al-Saud monarchy were toppled? What kind of regime would be likely to replace it?

DR. BATARFI: This is a very tricky question. First of all, I don't know of any al-Saud leader who could be regarded as a foe of the US. Secondly, the enemies of the family are the al-Qaeda members. It is not hard to think what kind of regime they would want to establish.

WSN: I know you have written about the situation of women in Saudi Arabia. In your opinion, what is the place of women in today's Saudi society? Why is there so much misogyny and disrespect towards women as human beings?

DR. BATARFI: I see their place equal to men, no less. The problem is not religious; it is cultural and tribal. Non-Islamic traditions are the enemy.

WSN: Jordan is an ally of the United States in the region. It has a peace treaty with Israel and a large Palestinian community within its borders. What are its strengths and weakness in light of the abovementioned factors? Can Jordan act as mediator between the US and the Arab or Muslim countries?

DR. BATARFI: Jordan can play a role, but so can many other US allies and friends in the Gulf region, as well as Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan.

WSN: The United States' energetic campaign to promote democracy has somehow produced the opposite result, and now we have the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in the territories, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Moqtada al-Sadr's party in Iraq. What has driven this outcome? What changes should be made to US policy towards the Arab countries?

DR. BATARFI: This is a good question that provides its own answer. US and Israeli actions caused all the above reactions. Modify the actions and you may get different reactions. Be fair, just and kind and your enemies of today will be your friends and allies of tomorrow. Common sense!

WSN: Thank you, Dr. Batarfi.