Archive for the ‘Abbas’ Category

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Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff write in Haaretz:

If someone were to offer Ehud Olmert the possibility of drawing a thick, black line through all of the events of the past year, presumably the prime minister would gladly accept it. It isn’t just the war in Lebanon. It is also the affair of the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit two and a half weeks earlier, and the failed “Summer Rain” military operation in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the kidnapping, which did not bring Shalit back and did not yield any other significant accomplishments.

Here are two of the outstanding statements from that period that Olmert would no doubt prefer to forget: On June 26, one day after Shalit was abducted: “The question of the release of [Palestinian] prisoners [in return for Shalit] is not at all on the agenda of the government of Israel.” On July 1, a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Olmert’s behalf: “There will not be any deal. The soldier Shalit will be released, or else we will be compelled to act to release him.” Behind the scenes Olmert’s people were constantly briefing and reminding journalists: The aim is to break the old rules of the game. Israel will act so that the terror organizations, first in the territories and afterward in Lebanon, will lose the desire to abduct more people.

Since then more than eight months have elapsed. The appetite of the would-be abductors has perhaps been tempered – in light of the many losses among the Palestinians and the Lebanese – but the incentive is still there. Israel is now negotiating the release of thousands of prisoners in return for Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in two separate channels.

The numbers reported here seem to be a bit excessive. 1400::1 is a very high price to pay for a prisoner exchange with no assurances that this behavior will cease, that rockets will no longer be targeted from Gaza into Israel, with no declaration of both the de jure and de facto existence of Israel (what other state requires this of their neighbors?) As regular readers of this blog know, I am not opposed to the notion of negotiation with one’s political enemies. It must be clear, however, that any negotiations that occur do not amount to a list of demands by one side as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. 1400::1 or even 1400::3 borders on a take-it-or-leave-it demand.

It is clear that negotiations require two sides that are willing to engage each other in meaningful talks. No reasonable person can enter talks that place demands so far out of reach that they don’t pass the giggle test. All one can do is giggle at a demand that 1400 prisoners, each with, to use the Israeli phrase, blood on his hands, in exchange for from 1 to 3 kidnapped soldiers. The demand is simply ridiculous.

If Hamas truly intends to negotiate with Israel as its leadership has indicated in recent days then it is up to that leadership to drop their ridiculous take-it-or-leave-it demands and sit down as honest negotiators. Both sides should negotiate hard, but reasonably. Most importantly, both sides must be willing to make concessions to the other, small ones that can be monitored and deemed successful at first, and then larger ones. In the end, neither side can resort to violence the second one does not get its own way. It is time for a new way of thinking, for the playground bullies to stand aside and let the people negotiate an end to nearly a century of violence.

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Nidal al-Mughrabi, reporting for Reuters writes:

Hamas signaled a willingness on Wednesday to negotiate over the list
of Palestinian prisoners it wants Israel to release in exchange for a
captive Israeli soldier, but ruled out major changes.

The fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, seized by Gaza militants 10
months ago, is expected to dominate talks planned for Sunday between
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud

Israeli leaders have rebuffed the prisoner list submitted by Hamas,
which leads the Palestinian government, because it includes many
militants deemed to have “blood on their hands” for attacks against

I am generally a supporter of Israel, less for political reasons than for personal ones. I am, however, bothered by the current standoff between the Olmert government and Hamas. Not unlike the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate rejecting negotiations with George II, the current Israeli (tentative) rejection of the Hamas list is self-defeating.

What has become clear is the fact that the Israeli position of the Iron Wall, a strategy adopted at the inception of the country, designed to communicate the notion that Israel is so strong militarily that to resort to force will only bring a devastating response, is no longer operative. Palestinian resistance no longer respects the Iron Wall and has invented ways to resist that lead to the condition of Israeli isolation.

What is the harm in talking? The Israeli response is that talking has not worked in the past. Promises made by the Palestinians have never been kept. Unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was met with continued rocket fire into Israel from Gaza. And so on…How can we trust that we will not be fed more of the same? It seems to me that this is the wrong position simply because it perpetuates the now with no possibility for a better future.

The Palestinians are not without blame here. Certainly as an occupied people they have chosen to respond to the occupation with violence and hate. The rhetoric that flows from the Palestinian camp is not reassuring to Israeli leadership.

Trust, however, is not something that develops immediately, especially after so many years of violence and mistrust. But, in the words of Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” The road to peace is not easy, but it is something that must start NOW. Outright rejection of talks with Hamas regarding the release of Shalit is a self-defeating decision. Israel must not enter talks with blinders on, that would be self-destructive. But, small steps forward seem to be not only in order but may be the only way out of the Middle Eastern mess.

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