And what is Hamas going to do in return? Israeli officials should carefully consider why Hamas may be offering this temporary tahdia, or calm. Does Hamas fear it has bitten off more than it can chew, and that decisive action by Israel in Gaza may be in the offing? Or will they simply take advantage of the period of “calm” in order to continue preparing for later action? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.) Simply put, Israel’s leadership must ask what lies on the other side of the “calm” — not what they “hope” or “trust” will happen.
Negotiating with jihadists is a risky proposition, as the negotiator risks rewarding the behavior that has led to the present situation. Indeed, as the article notes, “…cutting a deal with Hamas would amount to international recognition of its control of Gaza.” If Israel allows Hamas to control or appear to control the terms of the cease-fire, Israel looks weak, and Hamas and other jihadist groups will try to press the advantage.
The article doesn’t say anything about Israel’s terms, but these would be just a start:
1. Release Gilad Shalit.
2. Put an end to incitement in Hamas-controlled media — for example, praising the Jerusalem yeshiva attacker.
3. If Hamas likes to think of itself as “controlling” the Gaza Strip, they need to actually control it, or admit they can’t or won’t. Rocket attacks must end, and “loose cannon” jihadist groups are no excuse.
Those would be minimal requirements. There are many others that could and should be added, including the demand that Hamas renounce the goal of destroying Israel.
“Hamas sets terms for Israel cease-fire,” by Ibrahim Barzak for the Associated Press:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Hamas prime minister called publicly Wednesday for a period of calm with Israel, laying out conditions that would end attacks on Palestinian militants, open Gaza’s borders and lift economic sanctions.
But shortly after the appeal by Ismail Haniyeh, Israeli troops opened fire on a car in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and killed four Palestinian militants, clouding the prospects for a cease-fire.
A bit of biased reporting. A few paragraphs below, we find out more about these “militants.”
Among the conditions for an end to fighting that Haniyeh set earlier was a halt to Israeli military operations in the West Bank.
“We are talking about a mutual comprehensive calm, which means that the enemy must fulfill its obligations,” Haniyeh said in a speech at Gaza City’s Islamic University. “The Israelis must stop the aggression … including assassinations and invasions, end the sanctions and open the borders.”
Haniyeh’s offer by came amid signs that Israel and Hamas are moving closer to an Egyptian-brokered deal to end weeks of fighting that have killed more than 120 Palestinians and five Israelis.
Israel stepped up attacks on Gaza two weeks ago in response to repeated rocket barrages on southern Israeli towns by Hamas militants. The fighting has subsided in recent days. But both sides have denied talk of a formal truce and there are no direct contacts.
The U.S. fears continued fighting will torpedo peace talks between Israel and moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls a West Bank government that rivals Hamas’ rule of Gaza.
Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and is sworn to its destruction. Israel refuses to deal with the Hamas government.
But cutting a deal with Hamas would amount to international recognition of its control of Gaza. Israel and Abbas — who are involved in internationally backed peace talks — would essentially be agreeing to work with the militants instead of trying to topple them, allowing Hamas to stay in power while they try to negotiate a peace deal.
The deal could also give Abbas a new foothold in the area.
At the center of the arrangement would be deployment of officers loyal to Abbas at Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt. Hamas officials said they accept such a deployment in principle, even though it means giving up some control. They said they have given Egypt names of pro-Abbas officers who would be acceptable to Hamas.
Haniyeh said “all of the factions are involved,” signaling that Hamas’ call for a halt to the fighting has the support of smaller militant groups that have often scuttled cease-fire attempts in the past.
Haniyeh used the word “tahdia,” or calm, to describe the informal cease-fire he sought. He did not use the Arabic word “hudna,” which is interpreted as a more formal truce. Both terms denote a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace, but even the subtle differences between the words has led to fierce debate among Arabs in past cease-fire efforts.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Hamas would use any lull to rearm. And Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak made clear Wednesday that a cease-fire was not yet in place.
“We are not in a situation of an arrangement here,” Barak said during a tour of the Gaza border. “We are in the midst of operations aimed at stopping rocket fire,” he added. “There is no change in what we’re doing. What awaits us here is more operations.”
The remarks were followed by the Israeli West Bank attack. Palestinian security officials said one of the four killed was the commander of Islamic Jihad in the Bethlehem area, Mohammed Shehadeh, and two others were also members of Islamic Jihad. The fourth belonged to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent offshoot of Abbas’ Fatah.
More specifically, an article at YNet News identifies Shehadeh as the jihadist believed to be the mastermind of the yeshiva attack. That really lets the air out of the notion that this operation by Israeli forces should have any bearing on the cease-fire.
Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam in Gaza denounced the killings.
“This new crime reflects the true face of the occupation,” he said. “Killing still continues while they are talking about the possibility of bringing calm. But if they think that calm means Palestinian surrender, they are mistaken.”