Against the backdrop of the belligerent declarations by the IDF chief of staff, who is threatening that "Israel will have no choice other than another broad operation in Gaza," it's hard to understand the silence that followed Khaled Meshal's historic statements. The Hamas leader declared this week that his movement is switching over from the armed struggle to a popular struggle, and that its agreement with Fatah includes the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, without renouncing the right of return.
A popular uprising, according to Meshal, means demonstrations and civil revolt without the use of arms. This doesn't include recognition of Israel or abandonment of the option of an armed struggle, which remains "a right of the Palestinian people" - but after the establishment of a state.
According to Meshal, a rational reading of reality, including the situation in Syria and the achievements of the popular revolutions, led the organization to reassess its path, to sign the reconciliation deal with Fatah and change the struggle's strategy. These are remarkable statements that highlight the extent that political events can bring about strategic turnarounds, even ideological ones.
But instead of encouraging Hamas' new direction, expressing the hope that it will turn into a legitimate political party and supporting the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, Israel offered its routine response - silence and apathy toward the declarations and a threat of a military operation.
Thus, as the Palestinian leadership reads the regional political map correctly and plans for the next stage in its efforts to achieve international recognition for a Palestinian state, Israel persists with its timeworn concepts that have led to the rejection of every diplomatic move.
In the very near future, Palestine will be able to show the world a unified government that controls both parts of Palestine and is based on an agreed-on platform, which the Quartet countries won't be able to reject. Israel, it can be assumed, will boycott that government and ensconce itself in its foxhole to evade the political process.
The government must not ignore the declarations by the Hamas leadership and reject the chance of achieving a cease-fire with the organization, at the least. In light of Hamas' turnabout, the threat of a military operation sounds like a threat more to southern Israel than to the Gaza Strip.
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