2 thoughts on “Hamas Offers Complete Truce in Return for End of Boycott – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. 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:

    The Quartet’s first reaction has been cautious. The agreement does not embrace the three Quartet conditions for resumption of aid and diplomatic contact: the new government will “respect” past Israeli-Palestinian accords, not abide by them; it will not recognise Israel; and it has not renounced violence – yet another reminder of how little a year of pressure and sanctions has extracted from Hamas. But what really matters is whether it will agree to and impose a mutual cease-fire; deal with Israel on day-to-day matters; acquiesce in negotiations between President Abbas, as leader of the PLO, and Israel; and, if a permanent status agreement were reached, allow it to be put to a popular referendum and pledge to honour its results.

    Those standards should now apply to a government of national unity. The political and economic boycott should immediately be eased to allow discussions with the government as a whole and give Hamas an incentive to further moderate its stance; over time – based on PA performance, including release of Corporal Shalit in a prisoner exchange and adherence to a ceasefire – sanctions should be lifted in a calibrated manner. This is a course the U.S., politically and legally hamstrung, is unlikely to take. But it is one that Arab states and other Quartet members, principally the EU, should embrace. Maintaining sanctions and shunning a government expected to comprise some of the most pragmatic Palestinians would not bring the international community any closer to its goals. It would strengthen hardliners in Hamas, discredit Fatah further and risk provoking greater Israeli-Palestinian violence.

    The main objective, of course, is to revive the peace process and move toward a two-state solution. Critics of the Mecca Agreement and the national unity government, chiefly the U.S. and Israel, call it an impediment to progress – an odd characterisation considering there was no peace process before Hamas won the elections and no peace process before Fatah agreed to join its government. It is also wrong. Mecca is a prerequisite for a peace process not an obstacle to it. Without a Hamas-Fatah power-sharing agreement and as long as the Islamists feel marginalised, unable to govern and in an existential struggle for survival, there can be no sustainable diplomacy. With sizeable public support, Hamas can deny Abbas the legitimacy required to make difficult concessions. It can launch attacks on Israel to torpedo talks. And in or out of office it can easily prevent a referendum designed to ratify any potential agreement.

    If the international community is serious about its proclaimed goals, it will help bring stability to the Palestinians and broker a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, permit the unity government to govern and press for meaningful negotiations between Abbas and Olmert. It will see Mecca as an opportunity to revive the peace process, rather than as yet another excuse to bury it.

    As usual, you’re right on the mark.

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