Hamas May Become Viable Negotiating Partner

Article Summary
During the latest confrontation between Gaza militants and the IDF, Hamas has shown itself to be a reliable organization. Former IDF spokesperson MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) wonders whether it will be considered an interlocutor further down the line.

In the present confrontation between Israel and the Popular Resistance Committees, Israel has been treading very carefully. As of the writing of these lines, we have been very fortunate. The cutting-edge technological systems developed by Israel have been doing their jobs in the best possible manner. Regarding the offensive-attack perspective, Israeli drones have struck targets on the ground with surgical precision based on reliable intelligence information. They have succeeded in stopping missiles from being fired with minimal harm to innocent bystanders. But as time goes on, civilians on both sides are liable to get hurt.

Regarding the defensive perspective, the Iron Dome is an unprecedented success. Israel is doing the impossible in the asymmetrical warfare  — ostensibly. Why? Because this type of warfare, called “limited” or “low-intensity" warfare, is the ability of the small and the weak to effectively harm its stronger opponent. Even if the rocket and missile attacks do not cause numerous casualties to the enemy and do not cause the enemy to cease functioning as in large-scale warfare, low-intensity attacks make their impact on the life of the civilian population, affecting its consciousness. Thus this is a media war, and not necessarily a large-scale physical clash on the battlefield.

The media has a major role in such low-intensity conflicts, because it intensifies the damage's effects and gives it additional dimensions. Thus even when Israel intercepts scores of short-range rockets and missiles, the million people confined to their homes still undergo personally and collectively harsh experiences that mold their outlooks and points of view. On the other hand, the Resistance Committees seem to radiate great disappointment that they were not able to get their assaults against Israel into the headlines of the Arab media.

Israel has made great strides in its war against terror. It has suppressed terror in the West Bank almost completely and succeeds in containing the Gaza terror at a low flame, even a controlled one. But alas, no smart bomb or aircraft has yet been invented that knows how to crush ideology. Ideologies cannot be thwarted or intercepted. Countries that are larger and stronger than us have learned this lesson already — countries like the United States, Great Britain, Russia and France. Ideologies survive to bring forth new generations of terrorists who follow their predecessors, as we see in the case of Zuhir al-Qaisi, a Popular Resistance terror chief killed by Israel.

Carl von Clausewitz, the great military philosopher, said, "War is merely a continuation of politics.” Here we see the reverse phenomenon: diplomacy is the continuation of war and the armed conflict. In other words, when the fire dies down and the shooting stops, then dialogue gets its turn. There must be dialogue.

I know that Israel is prohibited to negotiate with Hamas until Hamas accepts the Quartet terms and changes its basic policy of calling for Israel’s destruction. So Israel does not officially talk to it. Nevertheless, it exchanges messages and does conduct indirect negotiations, thus acknowledging the fact that Hamas is the landlord in Gaza and is even the responsible adult who tries to curb flare-ups. Hamas, like its Hezbollah counterpart in the north, is gradually becoming domesticated. It adopts the trappings of government and learns about the limitations of brute force, as an entity jockeying for international recognition. Israel and the international community can pressure it with new techniques, not necessarily “high-intensity” military force and economic sanctions, but by “low-intensity” means — that is, adopting norms and behavioral patterns of a governmental entity.

Hamas also reconciled with the Palestinian Authority and together they are building a government with the intentions of connecting the two sections of the Authority. Israel cannot remain indifferent to Hamas’ maturation and its gradual acceptance by the international community. In the short term, military force speaks and is intended to achieve quiet for both sides. In the long term, Israel will have to evaluate: Is Hamas becoming a dialogue partner?

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