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Hamas : talk to them.

By Jeroen Gunning


The trend of events in Gaza in the first months of 2008 has highlighted once again that the current situation is untenable. From Hamas's bulldozing the border-fence with Egypt to enable Gazans to break out of their international blockade and stock up on food and energy essentials, to the rocket-attacks on Israeli towns and Israel's punitive military incursions, it is clear that something has to give. The question is: what? \ud \ud In this article, I will argue that the present policy of Israel and its western allies of dealing exclusively with Fatah in the West Bank, isolating Hamas and weakening it by making its fiefdom, Gaza, economically unviable, is both counterproductive and dangerous. Instead, I will argue for engaging Hamas and ending Gaza's isolation. Beyond the policy's grave humanitarian costs and its long-term effect on the unity of the Palestinian territories, there are three compelling reasons for engagement: \ud \ud * an analysis of Hamas's past behaviour suggests that, rather than being a "total spoiler", incapable of compromise, Hamas is capable of (some level of) compromise - if the political conditions are right. Permanent exclusion, conversely, reduces Hamas's incentives to compromise, and strengthens its more militant members, while driving the movement as a whole further into the arms of hardliners in Iran and Syria \ud \ud * Hamas, its violent actions notwithstanding, represents a series of grievances that a significant portion of Palestinians hold and that need to be addressed for a future settlement to be stable \ud \ud * the exclusion of Hamas from the political process is likely to undermine any agreement, since Fatah's leadership lacks the popular legitimacy needed to implement it. \ud \u

Publisher: openDemocracy
Year: 2008
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