The strange case of the Hamas cease fire negotiations
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Zionism & Israel Center http://zionism-israel.comThe announcements and rumors concerning the cease fire between Israel and Hamas continue unabated. The latest one is an announcement by Egypt that all Palestinian factions have agreed to the terms of the cease fire. This is not the quixotic and eccentric effort of Jimmy Carter, but rather the down to earth and supposedly informed diplomatic program of Egypt. They are native Middle East players, and should know better.
Nobody should understand the dangers of legitimizing Hamas better than Egypt. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood, which has been aiming to overthrow the Egyptian regime since its foundation. The Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinated Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser and succeeded in murdering President Anwar Sadat. In the Middle East, nothing is every quite as it seems to be. If the Egyptians are trying to negotiate a deal that will establish a regime that is dedicating to overthrowing their own Egyptian government, there ought to be a rational reason, but there might not be, or it might not be a good one. Very likely, the Egyptians are making the usual miscalculation that they can contain radicalism by channeling it and exporting it abroad, in the same way that the Saudis and other Gulf regimes are glad to finance Salafist Jihadi movements as long as they don't shoot up their own neighborhood. It is very likely that this is part of the "big tent Islam & Arabism" of the Saudis" who have been trying to bring Hamas into the fold since that organization came to power in the Palestinian Authority. From the Arab/Muslim point of view, it makes a certain sort of sense, even if, as outside observers, we can see that it is going to fail. It is a way to try to compete with, and contain, the most radical elements in the Muslim-Arab world, represented by Al-Qaeda and by the Mullahs of Iran. The Saudis and Egyptians are unable to understand that attempts to ride the tiger of Islamist radicalism will always end with the rider inside and the smile on the face of the tiger.
Do not be quick to despise this shortsighted strategy, since apparently the same rationale prompts the British to allow Muslim radicals to preach Jihad in Britain, as long as they are only going to blow up people in Israel or elsewhere, and not in the London underground.
The reasons why this deal has to be bad for Israel should be clear. They are summed up by Efraim Karsh and honed by Avi Dichter. It is a no-brainer. Hamas is out to destroy Israel and has never denied that that remains its goal. Negotiating with Hamas while they have not renounced their goal and do not intend to do so, gives legitimacy to this genocidal organization. They were intended to be "peace partners" or a part of the Oslo process. They are a cancerous growth that came to power when the Oslo process started going very wrong, and the Israeli and US governments, as well as the Arab world and the Palestinians themselves, lost control. Hamas is the vehicle that Iran is using to subvert the Oslo process and frustrate US policy in the Middle East.
Khaled Meshaal, the real leader of Hamas, was quite frank in announcing that the truce with Israel was just a tactic, and that Hamas would never make peace with Israel. It is also clear that that proposed terms represent huge concessions by Israel in return for absolutely nothing. Israel will agree to open the the borders to Gaza to unlimited smuggling. Israel will hundreds of jailed Palestinians, including murderers. Hamas will be granted legitimacy. What will Israel will get in return? Hamas will give up kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The rocket attacks on the Western Negev will continue, but Hamas will piously announce that they cannot control the other factions. Inevitably, Hamas or another group will kidnap more Israeli soldiers or civilians, since the last kidnapping proved to be such a good deal. There is nothing real in this deal for Israel. At best, it postpones the inevitable day of judgment, when Israel will have to do whatever unpleasant things must be done to get rid of regimes such as that of Hamas. Since any truce will allow Hamas to get stronger, the truce will also put a higher price tag on the elimination of the Hamas "government."
The only mysteries about the whole procedure are the mysterious silences of the United States and Israel. Non-recognition of Hamas is a US policy. Egypt is a client state of the United States. The Mubarrak government gets huge amounts of US aid. Yet the US is silent as the Egyptians pursue a diplomatic course that is disastrous for US policy. Likewise, for unknown reasons, the Israeli government goes along with the charade, and does not announce that there will not be any deal of any kind unless the Hamas meets the stated conditions. One suspects that that someone is looking for an "easy" solution to the unpleasant problem of Gilad Shalit's captivity and the even more unpleasant problem of Qassam missiles in the Western Negev. That would be unfortunate.
Ehud Olmert's government made many mistakes, but until now, they had gotten one thing right. This point has been missed in the torrent of deadly criticism. The Second Lebanon War was a terrible failure of tactics and judgment. Strategically, it was absolutely correct, because it signaled that Israel would not be open to blackmail deals based on kidnapping, just as the fierce response to the kidnapping of Shalit had done. The dramatic and publicized failure of the Second Lebanon war, was not nearly as big a failure in strategy as the disastrous "deal" made to obtain the release of Elhanan Tannenbaum, and all the deals that preceded it, each of which invited further kidnapping.
It is understandable if, having gauged the winds of political sentiment, the beleaguered Olmert government decided that after all, discretion is the better part of valor, and that political survival dictated that it had to obtain an end to the firing of the Qassam rockets and the return of Gilad Shalit, even if the means of doing so were strategically disastrous. The failure would not be a failure of the Olmert government alone, but rather a failure of nerve of the Israeli people. There are, after all, a lot of Israelis who are calling for negotiations with Hamas as the "sensible" course. It is hard to ignore the suffering of people in Sderot and other communities, and the terrible agony of the Shalit family.
In the end, it is our decision. We all know that it is wrong to give in to terror, and that negotiating with criminals is never good policy. We all love Gilad Shalit and are concerned for his safety, but we must be more concerned for the safety of the hundreds of potential kidnap victims who would be endangered by dealing with the Hamas devil for reasons of political expediency, and even before that, we have to consider the future of the entire Zionist effort in Israel, which would be mortally threatened by the establishment and legitimation of an Iranian puppet regime in Gaza.
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