Sunday, March 26, 2006

Israel, after the election

A longer version of my article will run in the Daily Star on Tuesday, March 28, 2006. Israel, after the election: "Hamas and its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, face a choice between ideological rigidity and pragmatism. It is premature to expect them to categorically reject terrorism or embrace the failed Oslo agreements, but there are signs that a diplomatic dance between Israel and Hamas is already under way.

For this to keep up, Hamas will have to continue the truce that has been in effect since 2005, just as Israel will have to refrain from incendiary provocation. Although it has passed unnoticed for the most part, Hamas representatives have sustained effective working-level dialogues with Israeli counterparts to keep the lights on and the sewers connected. Though Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, it certainly recognizes the reality of its weak position.

Once the heated campaign rhetoric fades, watch for the dance to continue. Washington will join that dance, without claiming to be a partner, because the reality is that there is no serious alternative. If Hamas fails, it must succumb to its own ideological trap, and not be seen as a victim of a cruel Israel-U.S. policy, which would only redeem it in the eyes of many Muslims. "

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