Hudna is a Palestinian affair
Achieving the hudna is not and should not be an Israeli demand. Israel is not and should not be negotiating separately with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, or any other organization that is not the Palestinian Authority.
Hudna has become such a household word that soon we will probably hear of hudna ice cream in five flavors and that the hudna furniture store will be open on Saturdays too. Hudna is a well-known process in tribal law: It's the stage at which the heads of feuding families decide to halt the chase for bloody vengeance temporarily until a peace agreement is achieved between them - a sulha. If a sulha is not reached, the hudna is voided and the vendetta is resumed.
When Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is asked if he managed to achieve a hudna with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he replies that an agreement to this effect has not been signed yet, but that there are talks and understandings. A senior Hamas representative, Ismail Abu Shnab, said that "if Abu Mazen reaches an agreement with Israel, we will not embarrass him." In other words, Hamas will give Abbas a chance to reach an agreement. The hudna is therefore perceived, rightfully, as an internal Palestinian affair.
Achieving the hudna is not and should not be an Israeli demand. Israel is not and should not be negotiating separately with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, or any other organization that is not the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is not being tested for his ability to mediate between Israel and these organizations. They are his problem. The principle he is acting on - "one authority and one strong Palestinian army" - is proof that he acknowledges this.
This principle already encompasses what Israel calls "war against the terror infrastructure." To implement it, Israel will probably have to give up the spectacle of Palestinian brigades killing Hamas activists and demolishing their houses as proof of war on the "infrastructure." This was a deceptive spectacle anyway, not only because it does not guarantee success, and Israel can testify to that, but because it is the last thing Israel should be interested in, if only for purely security reasons - a Palestinian civil war.
A ruling authority wishing to gain broad legitimacy from its own public does not destroy the homes of its people. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not a foreign body in the Palestinian society. Although they hold a radical pan-Islamic ideology, they are, first and foremost, Palestinian organizations.
Therefore, the dialogue with those organizations that Abbas speaks of is, in fact, one of the correct ways of fighting terror - neutralizing their motivation to sabotage the PA's political moves, for national reasons.
Abbas wishes to achieve this goal by creating circumstances for the advent of Palestinian public pressure against whoever obstructs the idea of the Palestinian state, rehabilitating its economy and building its civilian society - hence, the great importance that Abbas attributes to the release of detainees, to giving Palestinians permits to work in Israel and to rehabilitating the economy.
These are not merely personal achievements he wishes to score, but a formula that can deprive the extreme organizations of the mainstream's legitimacy to continue the terrorist attacks.
Such public pressure has already proved itself in a few other places. The Lebanese public began applying similar pressure on Hezbollah after Israel's withdrawal; the Egyptian public has denounced the radical organizations; and when the Oslo agreement was still valid, the Palestinian public in Gaza acted against Hamas' attempt to dictate a radical religious way of life.
Such public pressure, which followed the Israel Defense Forces' strong-arm policy in the territories, gave legitimacy to Abbas' appointment and to his political conception - that the violent intifada must be dropped in favor of a political struggle.
This is the first Palestinian attempt to translate the intifada into a political victory for the Palestinians and to get out of a dead-end predicament. Israel must support this endeavor if it really intends to fight the "terror infrastructure."