Thursday, March 6, 2008

Generous Hamas Stance Opens Door to Peace

Hamas statement:

Hamas' conditions are clear: We will halt our fire in exchange for a complete end to Israeli military operations in Gaza and in the West Bank, and a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

This offer constitutes a moderate, reasonable, and feasible first step. It meets Tel Aviv’s minimum demand of an end to rocket attacks and opens the door to further progress without imposing unbearable costs on Israel. It does not, for example, require steps related to recognition, removal of illegal settlements, opening of Jewish-only roads in Palestine to all residents, partition of Jerusalem, right of return of Palestinians to their homes in what is now Israel, or any of the other thorny issues. It constitutes an offer designed to be a practical basis for slow, careful cooperation rather than designed to sabotage negotiations.

It also imposes a significant cost on Hamas because it means that Hamas would give up its primary lever – the rocket attacks that constitute its only effective means of making Israel pay attention. Israel, however, could reinstitute violence whenever it so chose – nothing in this agreement would prevent that, since it makes no mention of such reasonable peacekeeping steps as international peacekeepers, or a pullback of Israeli forces from the border, or even a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestine.

Thus, in truth, the Hamas offer amounts to a significant concession while asking very little of Israel; it grants Israel its minimal demand but gives Hamas nothing except such political prestige as would flow from a truce credited to Hamas. Israeli hardliners may find that distasteful, but it works both ways - the more credit Hamas gets for negotiating a truce, the greater the political cost to Hamas for subsequently breaking it.

Israelis who sincerely want peace should jump to accept this statement and build momentum to keep Hamas committed to it. Those who says that is too great a price to pay do not want peace; they want surrender.

Other Comment:
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe:

The point is not just about escalating intentional killings but the strategy…. Israeli policy makers are facing two very different realities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the former, they are finishing construction of their eastern border. Their internal ideological debate is over, and their master plan for annexing half of the West Bank is gaining speed….

[In the latter…{WM}] Creating the prison and throwing the key to the sea, as South African law professor John Dugard has put it, was an option the Palestinians in the Strip reacted against with force in September 2005. Determined to show that they were still part of the West Bank and Palestine, they launched the first significant number of missiles into the Western Negev. The shelling was a response to an Israeli campaign of massive arrests of Hamas and Jihad people in
the Tul Karim area.

Israel responded with operation “First Rain.” Supersonic flights were flown over Gaza to terrorize the entire population, succeeded by
heavy bombardment of vast areas from the sea, sky and land. The logic, the Israeli army explained, was to weaken the community’s support for the rocket launchers. As was expected, by the Israelis as well, the operation only increased the support for the rocket launchers.

The real purpose was experimental. The Israeli generals wished to know how such operations would be received at home, in the region and in the world. And it seems the answer was “very well;” no one took interest in the scores of dead and hundreds of wounded Palestinians.

Le Monde:

Le plan "Cisjordanie d'abord" a donc abouti à ce qu'il devait permettre
précisément d'éviter : installer le Hamas au centre du jeu. A tel point que la pertinence du boycottage d'une organisation radicale, mais également capable de pragmatisme, par Israël, les Etats-Unis et les Européens, est plus que jamais sujette à interrogation.

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