Thursday, February 12, 2009
Hamas looks to stay in power by agreeing to truce with Israel
What are we to make of today's statement by Hamas, the militant group controlling the Gaza Strip, that a formal truce with Israel would be announced within three days? Of course, it would be great if the Egyptian-mediated agreement meant that Hamas had agreed to talk with Israel, which recently concluded a 22-day offensive that killed 1,300 Palestinians in the crowded coastal strip. Then again, Israel, which considers Hamas to be a terror group, refuses to talk to its leaders, too. Somehow, progress has been reported at talks in Cairo. "Most of the obstacles that prevented us from reaching an agreement were resolved and an announcement of a deal is expected within three days," Taher al-Nono, a member of the Hamas negotiating team in Cairo, told the Reuters international news service. Nono said the deal would end the cross-border attacks that prompted Israel's attack and open Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt. Hamas also is reportedly seeking the release of more than 1,000 prisoners being held in Israel in exchange for releasing an Israeli solder captured in 2006. Israel had no immediate comment, Reuters said. But such a deal makes sense for Israel only if it changes the current political situation, which is barely tenable for all sides. Hamas appears willing to accept the status quo provided it leaves them in power. The Israelis want the soldier back, assuming he's still alive, but they are going to have to get Hamas out. Hamas has complicated the still-breathing Mideast peace process since seizing control of Gaza from the more-moderate Palestinian Authority in 2007 by refusing to honor existing agreements with Israel. Egypt has invited the Palestinian factions to reconciliation talks in Cairo on Feb. 22.