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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
Abbas.

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
Israelis.

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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