October 25, 2011


This Should Be the Beginning, Not the End, of Israel's Negotiations With Hamas (Efraim Halevy, October 24, 2011, New Republic)

For over a quarter of a century Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised, boldly and unequivocally, both in writing and in speech, that he would never make any concessions to terrorists. Now, in one fell swoop, with the negotiated release of Gilad Shalit, all that is gone. The Prime Minister himself cast it as a momentous choice, an instance of decisive and historic leadership. [...]

Clearly, Hamas would like many more prisoner releases, and an end to the blockade of Gaza. But what the group has yet to suggest is what they will offer in return. Will they ultimately conclude that the kidnap of a soldier has paid handsome results and will they try for more of the same? (Evidence suggests they might: The released Palestinian prisoners were greeted in Ramallah , the seat of the Palestinian Authority, with deafening cries of "We want more Shalits!") Or will Hamas instead abandon terrorism for politics? Moreover, will other players in the region encourage them to do so?

The greatest tragedy would be if these questions remained purely speculative. Israel now has a golden opportunity to reframe its strategy and to refresh its diplomatic aims to match the new regional realities. No longer can it simply take for granted the continued exclusion of Hamas from the political equation. Hamas is striving to behave and be accepted as a legitimate political actor, and Jerusalem will have to consider whether it can ever negotiate peace with the Palestinians without Hamas at the table, together with Palestinian Authority. It's certainly not the case that Israel lacks leverage against either. If it's the release of prisoners that the Palestinians respond to, there are thousands of Palestinians still in Israeli jails, including leading figures of both Fatah and Hamas, which could potentially be the subject of further negotiation.

Posted by at October 25, 2011 10:21 PM

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