Tuesday, December 22, 2009

As we already talk to Hamas…

Yesterday night, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his senior ministers discussed the proposals made to them by the Hamas leadership, and after long deliberations formulated a counter proposal, to be passed back to Hamas. This evening, Netanyahu's proposals will be on the desk of Ismail Haniye in Gaza and that of Khaled Mashal in Damascus. The Hamas leaders will draft their answer and send it to Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office. A regular process of negotiations, even if Netanyahu and Mashal are not sitting at the same table but corresponding via Egyptian and German mediators.

The government of Israel is negotiating with Hamas – openly, in the broad sight of all, with details of the proposals and counter-proposals leaked daily to the Israeli and international media. It is already going on for years. But the negotiations are on one subject and one only – an exchange of prisoners, Gilad Shalit for x Palestinian prisoners.

Why, in fact? When we talk anyway, why not open comprehensive negotiations between the government of Israel and the leadership of the Hamas movement – which won the elections three years ago and which undoubtedly represents a significant part of the Palestinian people? Negotiations with the Palestinians can only succeed when they include Hamas, too. Negotiations aimed at achieving peace, or at the very least a stable, long term cease-fire. (Among other things, it would be the best way to ensure that the Palestinians about to be released in exchange for Shalit will not engage in new acts of violence.)

Undoubtedly, the mediators – Egyptian as well as German – would be ready to pass Binyamin Netanyahu's offers to the Hamas leadership. If he has anything to offer.