Haaretz reported yesterday:
A senior Hamas official told Haaretz on Tuesday that if Israel agrees to persuade the international community not to boycott the new Palestinian unity government, the Palestinians “will offer a promise from Hamas and Fatah of a total cease-fire with Israel, including a complete halt to Qassam [rocket] fire and suicide bombings.”
A real Israeli government would, of course, react cautiously, but positively to such an offer and immediately probe to find out how sincere or authoritative the offer was. Not the Olmert government which is racked by paralysis:
But said Prime Ehud Olmert’s spokeswoman Miri Eisen, “We need to see that you can actually implement the ceasefire [in Gaza] before we can consider an extension.”
In essence, she says that before Israel will even consider the offer Hamas would actually have to put in place a full ceasefire. That would essentially mean that Hamas fulfilled its half of the deal before Israel did anything at all. Not usually how negotiations work. And furthermore, she mistakenly refers to the Hamas offer as a request for “an extension” when it is not.
I am a little dubious about this Hamas threat:
the Hamas official warned, if Israel presses for a continuation of the international boycott and refuses to work with the unity government, the existing partial cease-fire will be in danger
We have heard such threats in the past and luckily Hamas has not broken the ceasefire (except for minor violations). So it seems a dubious threat.
At any rate, the Hamas offer was probably not made for the benefit of Israel. But rather for the benefit of the Europeans, who Hamas realizes are the weak link in the chain of opposition to a Hamas-dominated government. And the Europeans do seem almost on the verge of breaking ranks with Israel and the U.S.:
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who returned Tuesday from a meeting with EU foreign ministers, said that thus far, the EU appears to be standing firm on the Quartet conditions, as evidenced by its rejection of an Italian-Spanish-French proposal to set up a special committee to reconsider the conditions for dialogue with the new unity government. However, fearing this position might erode, she devoted much of her visit to urging her counterparts to stand firm on this issue, arguing that insisting on the Quartet conditions would strengthen Palestinian moderates, whereas “compromising at this time would strengthen Hamas.”
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema, one of the leaders of the anti-boycott camp, opined recently that the EU should not insist that the new government recognize Israel. Instead, it should say that abiding by the other two conditions would be sufficient, in order to encourage Hamas to be more flexible rather than trying to pressure it, he argued.
The EU’s external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, harshly criticized Israel at a meeting with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu last week: “You’re not giving the Palestinians anything – neither territory nor hope…”
Imagine the idea that strangling Gaza would “strengthen Palestinian moderates.” Livni is living in cloud cuckoo land.
Returning to Hamas’ strategy in announcing its readiness for a ceasefire: I believe it is trying to convince the Europeans, rather than the Israelis, that even without its acceptance of the three conditions, it is prepared for a de facto ceasefire with Israel in return for lifting the boycott. This has got to appear enticing to some of the key European players.
Andrew Schamess says
The International Crisis Group just released a new report last week, called After Mecca: Engaging Hamas. I like the ICG reports because they do so much source research, and because they reflect norms in international diplomacy, which makes them an antidote to propaganda from both sides.
Their recommendation to the Palestinian unity government:
As usual, you’re right on the mark.
“Livni is living in cloud cuckoo land”
Yes! Together witch major cuckoo Condi Rice…..