Gershon Baskin, co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information and a long-time expert on Palestinian affairs writes in the Jerusalem Post that the prevailing view among Palestinian, and even among Israeli analysts he speaks with is that Hamas will likely moderate its views regarding Israel:
Almost all of my Palestinian colleagues tell me that Hamas will change. They say that once Hamas has the burden of governing they will have to become more pragmatic. They speak of the process of change that they themselves went through.
And further, because of its former rejectionist positions that Hamas may be the only Palestinian party that can secure a real peace with Israel:
Facing the reality that Hamas is now in power in Palestine, it is important to accelerate their transformation from a radical pariah into a potential interlocutor. The Likud used to always claim that “only the Likud can do it” because the Likud represented the most hard-line positions and because it had no real opposition to their right. In the same way perhaps “only the Hamas can do it” and perhaps it is in the interest of Israel to sit across the table from Hamas leaders.
Baskin notes his conversation with a former PA minister confirms his conviction that Hamas will have to recognize Israel, if not immediately and explicitly, then certainly tacitly. And that such everyday interactions will lead to finding a path to peace:
A close Palestinian friend who was a PA minister and who spent 15 years in Israeli prisons before the first intifada knows all of the Hamas leaders personally. He met them all when he was in prison. He lives in Gaza and still has the opportunity to speak with them on a regular basis. He is 100% convinced that once they assume power Hamas will discover that they will have to deal with Israel.
Every single Palestinian ministry and minister has to deal with Israel. Palestinians are simply too dependent not to deal with the Israeli government and army.
Reality is simply much stronger than slogans – for both sides. I, too, think that the two sides will have to deal with each other; they simply will not have a choice.
It may take time for the Hamas to meet Israeli conditions for negotiations. Hamas will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state – I cannot say Fatah ever recognized Israel as a Jewish state. Fatah did recognize Israel as a state that is here to stay without recognizing the legitimacy of the state as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
I think that Hamas will be pressured by the Arab world to support the Arab League peace initiative which calls for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, in return for which Israel will be recognized by the entire Arab world, who would sign peace treaties with Israel.
Baskin presents what he calls “the optimistic assessment” of what could happen to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Hamas’ ‘watch:’
Most analysts – Israelis and Palestinians – say that Hamas is interested in entering into a long-term hudna…According to Israeli security experts, over the past year, with one exception, Hamas has kept to the tahadieh – the calm, and has not engaged in terrorism.
The optimistic assessment is that Hamas will enter into a long-term hudna (the Israeli condition of ending terrorism fulfilled), Hamas will support the Arab League peace initiative (granting conditional recognition to Israel), and the Hamas government will deal with Israel on a daily basis (basically working according to the Oslo agreements). Formally, Hamas will not fulfill the Israeli conditions, pragmatically they will.
If those conditions are realized, then the question becomes how does Israel respond? Actually, I feel convinced that Israel will not respond positively. Then the question becomes what do the U.S., the Quartet and the EU do to move Israel off the dime.