Deal Making In Israel and the Middle East
Israel's Security Cabinet met Wednesday, February 18, 2009 to debate on an imminent deal with Hamas which includes the freeing of Israeli P.O.W. Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Since the Gaza war ended on January 17, 2009, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud OImert declared a unilateral cease-fire, Egypt has been working on a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas. This has been difficult, as it involves meeting the demands of Hamas that border crossings will be opened, and the demands of Israel that Shalit will be released. Olmert has now made it clear to Egyptian officials that the release of Shalit must be an integral part of any deal between Israel and Hamas or no deal will happen. In addition, Israel's Security Cabinet does not seem to want a formalized cease-fire with Hamas at this time.
- (1) Hamas will be strengthened by a national unity government with Fatah because it will be a chance for Hamas leaders to come out of isolation and be perceived as working towards the good of Palestinian society.
- (2) Israel will be pushed into more painful concessions if Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) reconcile their differences and form a partnership. For example, the peace agenda that Egyptian officials are pushing both groups to accept involves the parameters of the Arab Peace Initiative, a plan that some Israeli leaders claim is a "non-starter."
- (3) A possible long-term truce with Israel, along with reconciliation between various Palestinian groups, will allow Hamas and the PA to consolidate their military forces. As long as Hamas does not change its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, it can be expected that any consolidation of troops will be mobilization efforts towards another war with Israel.
- (4) A formalized cease-fire, if Israel ends up conceding to one, would enable the international community to re-build Gaza's infrastructure, but it also makes room for global leaders to deal with Hamas directly, something that has been "off-limits" until now. This is because Hamas refuses to recognize the state of Israel, will not end the violence, and will not agree to abide by previous peace agreements between the Palestinians and the Jewish State.
- (5) Unless Egypt is more willing to cut down on arms smuggling, a truce would allow Hamas to continue to build-up its military arsenal allowing it to bring in more sophisticated rockets and more powerful explosive materials through deep underground tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor.
- (6) Opening border crossings into Gaza from Israel and Egypt will ease humanitarian suffering for Gazans, but it will also ease restrictions for terrorists who will be able to cross through to get training and finances from radical states in the region. Passage through the borders will also increase the risk of militants escaping into Israel who are intent on perpetuating more terrorist attacks.