Hundreds of thousands of people stopped their vehicles and went out of their cars on behalf of the Israeli kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit's release in 2011 after five years in captivity. Anyone who did so supported making a deal with the Hamas. Whoever was in favor of the deal, was in favor of dialogue. Hundreds of thousands of people said, in the middle of the day, that we had to talk to Hamas. An entire nation held its breath at the sight of the first pictures of Gilad Shalit, freed from captivity. Next to him walked Hamas military-wing commander Ahmed Jabari, bare-faced and unconcealed. This is the man who held Shalit, and this is the man who released him. The Hamas' number-one man and the state of Israel's number-one citizen signed the agreement for the release of the abducted soldier.
Anyone who was party to the struggle for Shalit's return, prepared the groundwork for talks with Hamas. Anyone who hung up a sign, who attended a demonstration or marched on his behalf or put a picture of Shalit on Facebook — gave legitimacy to this dialogue. The Israeli public already said its piece. It did not call the child by its name, it elegantly avoided stating the facts, but it openly supported negotiations with Hamas. Doing business with a terrorist organization.
So let's stop pretending. As it is, we hold negotiations with Hamas almost daily. Every cease-fire, every arrangement, everything that the media likes to call "understandings" — these are just words used to whitewash the truth: It is impossible to ignore the Hamas, it is impossible to make them disappear. Hamas is the movement that rules the Gaza Strip and we have no other partner.
The easiest thing for our leadership is to publicly proclaim with great resolve that Hamas is a terrorist organization, therefore we don't talk to them. After all, the Americans also say that. In fact, however, life is stronger than any declaration or cliché of an officeholder. It makes no difference whether the dialogue takes places via a third party, or Egypt as the case may be. Hamas is the extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, that's how they define themselves, and anyone who advocates conducting a dialogue with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, means conducting a dialogue with the spiritual father of the Hamas. At the end of the day, the ones to implement all understandings on the ground are us and them. What does it matter which kindergarten teacher initiated the let's-make-up ceremony? The bottom line is that there are only two sides to shake hands and make up.
There's nothing we can do about it. We must conduct negotiations openly with Hamas. Abu Mazen is nice, Ramallah is a lot more pleasant and attractive than Gaza, but the Gaza Strip is ruled by another agent and that agent is our partner. We can say what we want about them, and we must defend ourselves against them. This [Hamas] is not a peace organization or a human-rights NGO, and they are certainly anything but "nice." But we cannot continue to maintain a double standard when we already carried out an agreement successfully with them. Shalit is home — and thousands of security prisoners, including murderers and Israel-haters, are in their homes as well.
The time has come to end the ping-pong of violence. And no, not with an extensive military operation; we have already tried that option and as it became clear, nothing changed except for the large quantities of blood that were spilled. We conducted protracted negotiations and paid a steep price for the life of one soldier, a resident of the North. Now the time has come to conduct serious, painful negotiations over the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents of the South. With the same agent.