No Peace, at Best Truce Talks with Hamas and Fatah

Was Hamas -- or a Hamas/Fatah team -- behind a suicide car bombing that killed over 30 Egyptian soldiers at a Sinai checkpoint? Egypt reportedly plans to clear peaceful civilians out of Sinai and to pursue the terrorists with Apache attack helicopters, in order to secure a buffer zone between the Gaza strip and Sinai. Did peace-wary Palestinians attack Egypt just before cease-fire talks were to resume between the Hamas/Fatah coalition and Israel?

Or was Egypt, as Hamas officials charged, too quick to blame the Hamas regime in Gaza, which insists that it has eliminated smuggling tunnels at the Egyptian border and severed ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed in Egypt?

The Egyptian leadership has made it clear that it will no longer tolerate destabilization caused by Hamas. Indeed, back in 2001 MEMRI reported that tunnels for arms smuggling and terrorist infiltration, from Egypt to Gaza, were already a big problem, and that Egypt was losing tourism because of Palestinian intifada violence.

Will Egypt pledge to share its findings with the world, and to call upon American and other investigators to expose the perpetrators of the Sinai suicide bombing?

The big question from early September until the Sinai suicide bombing has been whether Egyptian President Sisi offered land for Fatah, and whether Abbas rejected that offer. According to some reports, Sisi offered a 617-square mile parcel of Sinai peninsula, five tines the size of Gaza, because the Egyptians want to end the destabilizing Palestinian refugee situation. Abbas was quoted as saying, “It’s illogical for the problem to be solved at Egypt’s expense. We won’t have it.”

Why did Egypt not confirm or deny those reports? Can we now rely upon the Egyptian government to be a force for candor in the Middle East?

It is bad enough that impressive past gestures were forgotten or kept from public attention, such as Israel’s carving, in 2000, an indentation “from within the demarcation of its proposed Exclusive Economic Zone between itself and Gaza…to Israel’s disadvantage” so that Gaza would have use of natural gas for power and for export to Israel -- an offer documented in 2013 by David Wurmser.

In these texting times, how could there be a dispute about whether Egypt made an offer to the Gazans unless Egypt did not want this on record?

If anything should be recorded in this age of social media now that everything is immortalized in telephones, it is Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Why is there no continuous documentation of exactly what was offered, how it was offered, why it was rejected, and how it was rejected, including the amped up terrorism against Israel?

The cease-fire talks of a couple of months ago should be available to both the Palestinian and Israeli publics. Caroline Glick rightly protested that the Obama Administration insisted that the content of certain talks remain hidden from the Israeli public. Nothing should be held from any public, especially what Egypt will have to say.

For years, President Bill Clinton, Ambassador Dennis Ross and other witnesses have maintained that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak placed on the table at Wye Plantation in 2001 a plan that would have given the Palestinians the Gaza Strip, control over almost all of the West Bank, territorial concessions to connect these regions, shared stewardship over Jerusalem, not to mention bona fide statehood. As Zev Chafets noted in 2001, while complaining that the “minutes of Camp David have never been published,” Clinton publicly blamed Arafat for turning down what he had ostensibly been demanding -- Palestinian sovereignty. (“Palestinians Revising History of Peace Talks,” July 26, 2001)

In order to avoid such a pointless and nonproductive cycle of denials and counter-denials, there must be full disclosure of all findings and talks having to do with Gaza, beginning right now, beginning with Egypt.

Truce, Not Peace, Talks  

Whether or not Hamas had anything to do with the Sinai suicide bombing, Hamas should be taken at its word that it is not ready for peace talks, and Fatah should similarly be taken at its actions.

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal made it perfectly clear that he regards the State of Israel as an occupying force that is “vulnerable at the core,” and expressed his confidence that Gazans, like all Palestinians, will willingly be martyrs in any crossfire in which their leaders put them. The Palestinian Authority has never disagreed. Imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti admitted in a 2006 Al-Jazeera interview that the Fatah platform calls for terrorism and negotiations simultaneously.

New York Times reporter Steven Erlanger noted just after the murderous, anti-peace Hamas organization was voted into office by Gazan Palestinians in their 2006 elections, that Israel offered $11 million in withheld funds for medical supplies to be brought to Gaza through the World Health Organization. But the Palestinian authority demanded the money in cash -- a scenario that could only benefit the Hamas thugs.

On all major issues, including the “peace process,” there is little difference between Hamas and Fatah. Both don’t want to enter into peace negotiations with Israel, whether de facto or de jure. But now that there has been a war (actually, at least three wars with Hamas), there can be a long-range cease-fire supervised by interested parties in the name of stability for the Middle East. Hamas has sworn that it will never surrender or give up arms. And during the 2014 Gaza conflict, there was no observable Palestinian pressure on Hamas to cease the rocket fire, even though many Gazans were bound to be caught in the crossfire.

Fatah proudly launched missiles at Israel alongside Hamas during the most recent conflict. Afterwards, Russian Television reporters were invited by Fatah to a rocket production facility, and informed that Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, had depleted their rockets a couple of months back, renewing their stock immediately -- and this despite Hamas’s placement of dozens of Fatah activists under house arrest during the Gaza war and shooting many in the legs for not staying indoors. (ABC News)

Truce-making may be more effective than peace-making, at least for the foreseeable future. True, Hamas has made the Arabic/Islamic term, hudna, “quiet,” “truce,” suspect, by using it as an excuse (  to amass and aim weaponry in between attacks on Israel. Yet, as Dennis MacEoin has thoughtfully argued, though the first uses of the term in Muhammad’s day amounted to stages of conquest, hudna need not be synonymous with rearming, and could be a first step toward seeking peace and cooperation with non-Muslims. One might add that hudna with non-Muslims may well be a way for Muslims to mend fences with other Muslims. Though, as MacEoin points out, “Muslims distinguished the hudna from other forms of disengagement, such as…tribal feuds, clashes between city factions…or fitna, sedition or civil strife,” a long term cease-fire with Israel may well be the way for Hamas to maintain some kind of relationship with Egypt, providing that Egypt’s prohibition of arms-smuggling is honored. Would Islamic theologians encourage hudna with Israel for the sake of umma, Islamic cooperation or peoplehood?

Given the lack of peace among Palestinians themselves, and in the face of across-the-board the resistance to peace talks with Israel, which always leads to escalated attacks on Israel (and now Egypt?) whenever peace talks are scheduled, negotiators and interested parties (especially the United States) should think “truce” and decide how a truce might best work: in Islamic thinking, in terms of who would police Gaza’s communities and its borders, in basic financial concerns such as who should be entrusted with foreign aid which, until now, has been used to build tunnels and missiles.