Gilad Schalit arrives at his home in Mitzpe Hila 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
The agreement between Israel and the Hamas which brought about the release of
Gilad Schalit is perceived to be a triumph for Hamas.
As a result of this
deal, many people believe Hamas has demonstrated that violence against Israel
reaps more fruits than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s
non-violent policy. It is undoubtedly true that the latest deal, achieved with
the help of Egyptian mediation, is widely seen among Palestinian Arabs as a
victory for Hamas.
However, the formula whereby Hamas has shown that
violence pays and that kidnappings are more likely to bring results for the
Palestinian people than Fatah's non-violence is a distortion of
The comparison between Hamas' violence and Fatah's non-violent
stance is simplistic and narrow-minded. Rather, the correct question to be posed
ought to be. are Hamas' violent tactics and rejectionist stance more successful
in bringing about tangible, long-term results for the Palestinian Arabs than a
serious process of negotiations with Israel?
TO BE sure, Abbas – known among
Palestinians as Abu Mazen – is currently a prisoner of his own policies. He
cannot demonstrate to his own people that earnest negotiations with Israel is
preferable and a more profitable option than anything the Hamas has to offer. He
has advanced two-preconditions in order to renew the negotiations with Israel.
Until those two pre-conditions are met, he has repeatedly said, no peace talks
with Israel are possible.
These two pre-conditions are: a total freeze of
Israeli settlement activity and negotiations based on the June 4,1967 boundary.
To be sure, these conditions were presented by Abu Mazen in the wake of similar
statements made by US President Barack Obama, who since then has either changed
his position (regarding settlement activity) or has been compelled to clarify
what he meant (concerning negotiations on the basis of the lines prevailing
previous to the Six Day War).
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did
freeze settlement activity for a 10- month period in order to facilitate a
resumption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. However, it took Abu
Mazen nine months to come to the negotiating table.
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Thus, the president
of the Palestinian Authority and leader of the Fatah Movement has created a
reality, through his own rhetoric, that precludes him from demonstrating to his
own people that his chosen pacific, diplomatic route is the only way
Only by negotiating with Israel will he be able to get tangible
results. His alternative vision to what Hamas has to offer should not merely be
adopting a policy of non-violence. He needs to negotiate with Israel in order to
be able to show that his preferred course of action reaps more concrete and
long-term results for his people.
By negotiating with former prime
minister Ehud Olmert, Abu Mazen managed to obtain an unprecedented peace offer
entailing a withdrawal of Israel from practically 100 percent of the West Bank
(Judea and Samaria) and East Jerusalem. Hamas’ violence would never have
led to the same results. Kidnapping Israelis and killing innocent civilians
would never have led any Israeli leader to agree to anything close to the
concessions created by a peaceful and serious negotiating process.
long run, Hamas’s violent tactics and rejectionist ideology will be no match to
Abu Mazen. For that reason, Abu Mazen must negotiate with Israel – the sooner
Emulating the rhetoric of Hamas, as he has tried to since the
Schalit deal and the return of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to the PA, will
lead Abu Mazen nowhere. He can't compete with the Hamas on its own field. He
must offer the Palestinian people something his Hamas rivals cannot: serious
negotiations with Israel, which could lead to tangible results.
course, Abu Mazen may believe that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will hardly
offer him what Olmert did. Considering he failed to give any reply to Olmert's
peace plan, Abu Mazen can hardly protest now that he might not get the same from
Netanyahu. Still, by not negotiating with Israel, Abu Mazen is losing his
relative advantage to Hamas.The writer is a lecturer in the graduate
Diplomacy Program at Tel Aviv University, and has a doctorate in Modern History
from Oxford University.
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