March 17, 2006


Religious Rapprochement in Israel: Officially, Israel and the West have rule out talks with the Islamic extremist organization Hamas. However, dialogue is quietly being sought with the new Palestinian leadership. (Christoph Schult, Der Spiegel)

Rabbi Menachem Fruman has been fighting a lonely battle for years now. A religious Israeli settler from the mountains in occupied West Bank, he has been tirelessly pushing to improve dialogue with the militant Islamist organization Hamas. Motivated by the principle that peace between religious believers should be possible, Fruman has regularly braved the Gaza Strip to meet radical Palestinian leaders.

His efforts climaxed in 1997, when he shook hands with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Fruman's settler friends regarded him as a traitor, and even within the Israeli peace movement he was viewed as naïve. Most of his compatriots just thought he was crazy.

But now -- ever since the Islamists won the parliamentary elections in January -- Fruman is very much in demand. With Hamas aiming to make their leader Ismail Haniyeh the next Palestinian prime minister, the 60-year-old rabbi knows more about how the new people in power view the world than practically any other Israeli.

Even the government is suddenly showing interest in what Fruman is doing. Recently, a close advisor of the acting Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert called him up to request a confidential chat. Fruman met the prime minister's representative in the anonymity of the lobby of a hotel in Jerusalem. He wanted to know how likely an improvement in relations between Israel and Hamas would be. "I said that Hamas can be put on the right path more easily if the organization is accorded some respect," says Fruman. [...]

According to surveys, 50 percent of Israelis are in favor of dealing with Hamas. But because of the elections in two weeks time, top politicians feel they have to show themselves to be unshakably tough. Although Hamas has not even formed a cabinet yet, Olmert has already labeled the new Palestinian government a "terrorist administration." And Israeli officials have threatened the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya with assassination. Olmert seemingly wants voters to believe that Israel is able to completely cut all links to the Palestinians.

But mutual dependence is far too great for that to ever happen. Only last week Israel was forced to re-open the border to the Gaza strip to allow aid through, after a three week blockcade. This was the only way of preventing a humanitarian catastrophe. And Israeli firms lose out on millions of dollars because they are unable to export their products -- especially milk, sugar and bananas -- to the Palestinian areas.

You don't have to respect them, but dealing with them publiclly actually discredits Hamas's position that Israel is illegitimate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2006 11:55 AM

And, as we are taught here, by dealing with them publically, Hamas is put in an untenable position regarding terror. If they continue to use it, encourage it, or permit it, they become targets. And they can't really hide, now can they?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 17, 2006 12:39 PM


They've already stopped using it, the key now is to make them a totally political creature.

Posted by: oj at March 17, 2006 12:48 PM

I know Hamas (supposedly) isn't terrorizing anymore, but surely they know about the other groups? And isn't that the point - to get them to either 'fess up or STOP it themselves?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 17, 2006 1:53 PM

Supposedly Hamas did not really want to win the election due to the responsibility that attached. Unfortunately for them they now have to deal with reality and 'sell out' because we control their pursestrings and the Israelis control much of their infrastructure and economy.

Posted by: JAB at March 17, 2006 2:50 PM


A sovereign is responsible for what goes on within his borders--that's why it's important to recognize that they are a state.

Posted by: oj at March 17, 2006 2:57 PM

When they demonstrate they can be reasonable leaders would be the time to respond ... reasonably. The Rabbi from the mountain may be the best conduit in the meantime. They're wise to seek his opinion. "Hope springs eternal."

Posted by: Genecis at March 17, 2006 3:04 PM

Yeah, well, maybe. But the Hamas charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. The fact that they may be talking to Israel means little or nothing. Germany had lots of chats with neighboring countries in the years before 1939, too, and it didn't do diddly for anyone but Germany.

Posted by: PapayaSF at March 17, 2006 4:24 PM

"The Arabs have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
Remember, there are no economic considerations when you are with your 72 virgins in heaven (or is it a 72 yo virgin?).

Posted by: morry at March 17, 2006 5:45 PM