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All Hamas demands is Israeli respect
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 : The coming days will reveal much about the mettle and the intentions of the Palestinian Hamas movement that now effectively runs a mini-state in the Gaza Strip, after defeating its rival Fatah in street skirmishes last year. The six-month-old cease-fire with Israel ends this week and talks are taking place now between Israeli and Egyptian officials about renewing it.
Hamas leaders in Damascus and Gaza have given slightly different versions of their positions, some leaning toward a cease-fire extension and others toward a resumption of the fighting.
Hamas has stated that it will extend the cease-fire - and indeed has offered Israel a long-term truce for many years - if the Israelis in turn meet their side of the deal, which is to stop killing and arresting Palestinians, colonizing their land, and strangling them economically. The fact that Hamas would consider letting the cease-fire lapse speaks much about its mindset and the options it is willing to pursue. This moment of decision-making allows us to accurately gauge what Hamas is all about, rather than seeing it through the lens of exaggerated misperceptions.
Reasonable people would expect that Israelis and Palestinians alike prefer a cease-fire to active warfare, especially since mutual attacks have never resolved the core conflict. Hamas' decision to extend the cease-fire is not going to be made on the basis of what makes its people more or less comfortable, or what entices Israelis into opening the gates a little bit wider to allow more consumer goods to enter Gaza. The basis on which Hamas makes such decisions reflects its wider worldview of the character and aims of Israel, and the nature of its confrontation with Israel.
Like other Islamist groups, Hamas calculates on the basis of a longer time frame than the next election, shifting public opinion, or whether or not it will be invited to tea at the White House. The single most important factor in the mind of the Islamist leaders is whether the agreement to renew the cease-fire reflects mutual respect and an acceptance of the principle of equal rights for Israel and Hamas.Read More