Haaretz brings news that Israel and Hamas are in the midst of serious negotiations under Egyptian auspices over a long-term truce. According to the report, Israel has proposed up to a 10 year truce while Hamas has countered with a one-year offer. As part of its offer, Israel would be willing to lift its 18-month blockade of Gaza:
Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha has said recently that Israel has offered his Palestinian Islamist group a 10-year cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt is also demanding a truce of a number of years’ duration. But Taha, Hamas’ spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said the group would agree to a cease-fire of no more than between one year and 18 months. Another Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said a long-term cease-fire “kills” the right to resistance by the Palestinians.
The London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, meanwhile, reported on Monday that Israel has offered Hamas a cease-fire for an unlimited amount of time and the opening of Gaza’s borders in return for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
According to the report, Hamas rejected the offer on the grounds that it linked the opening of the border crossings to Shalit’s release.
Part of the negotiation involves how to monitor the borders in a way that is acceptable to both Israel and Hamas. The presence of Israeli or Fatah monitors at the crossings is a sensitive one for Hamas as Israel in the past has used its presence to force the closing of the border for reasons that were less than transparent.
It appears that Hamas is balking at including the freeing of Gilad Shalit as part of the package that would include lifting the siege. I hope and presume that the freedom of Shalit is something that is included in the final agreement. Relations between Israel and Hamas should be as normalized as possible under current conditions. They cannot be so if Shalit is not free.
If true (and its important to note that hopeful reports like this often turn out to be empty ones), this is a most welcome development as it provides hope of a more stable relationship between Hamas and Israel. This also indicates that Israel IS negotiating with Hamas (albeit indirectly), something which Israel and the U.S. have taken great pains to claim they would never do.
Nowhere in this report is there any mention of Hamas recognizing Israel, which was another one of the supposedly “non-negotiable” principles that Israel and the U.S. demanded before it would negotiate with or recognize Hamas. One might even see the Israeli proposal for an unlimited or even 10 year truce as creeping toward Hamas’ own position, which publicly offered a long term hudna to Israel, a proposal that has been on the table for some time and rejected previously by Israel.
If the story is correct, it also proves that Israel’s vaunted claim that it invaded in order to silence Hamas rockets was for naught. Just as the Jewish peace camp has claimed all along, the only thing that will silence the rockets is negotiations–each side compromising and giving up on something it considers important in order to get from the other side something it considers even more important.
I also take personal satisfaction from this development, as it puts the lie to Israel’s more noxious right-wing supporters who comment here (most of whose comments haven’t been published–though many more-civil ones opposing my views were), who’ve levelled disgusting insults and threats over the past four weeks at me for my alleged anti-Israel views and my alleged slavish support for Hamas. I plan soon on mounting an “exhibition” here of some of the foulest ones to allow everyone to see just what these creeps are made out of.
All this will give George Mitchell something substantive to talk about with Olmert, Barak and Livni when he arrives on Wednesday.