Just Tell Hamas It's a No-no

How did Shin Bet get Hamas to promise to stop the barrage of Qassams on Sderot and what is such a promise good for?

So how exactly did it work? Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin called Mahmoud Abbas and maybe Mohammed Dahlan and said, probably in a very harsh, unequivocal tone, that if Ismail Haniyeh didn't stop the Qassams immediately, he, Diskin, would kill Hamas leaders? And what happened? Haniyeh panicked and ordered Azzadin al-Qassam head Ahmed al-Jaabari to stop the launches?

What are they actually telling us? That all it took was a verbal threat, a hint, maybe even a scowl, to stop the Qassams? That's the entire secret? And maybe there was a little deal, that Hamas wouldn't shoot Qassams and Israel wouldn't shoot "senior Hamas leaders"?

One of the two. Either they are fooling us and the halt to Qassam launches is just the result of an internal decision by Hamas to respond proportionately to Israeli assassinations and then to return to the hudna ?(cease-fire?), knowing it can leave it whenever it wants and start firing. Or they are fooling us and it was actually always possible to reach an agreement with a wink with Hamas, at least concerning security cooperation. According to statements Hamas leaders have made since winning the Palestinian Authority leadership, they are ready to discuss two types of cease-fires with Israel: a decades-long cease-fire if Israel withdraws from all the territories -a sort of post-apocalyptic hudna -or a short-term truce to deal with day-to-day matters.

Israel for its part wants both, but without negotiations or concessions. Hamas is also ready for that on the condition that it is enabled to run its government and money finally flows into its empty coffers - so government officials can earn a living, the schools can operate and the movement activists can pay their supporters, just as it was when the PA was under Yasser Arafat or Abbas. This is exactly what Israel does not want.

It doesn't want this because Hamas is still a terror organization that is not ready to recognize Israel or the irrelevant agreements it signed with the PA, most of which Israel itself is not ready to maintain. The fact is, says Israel, Qassams continue to fly into Israel from Gaza, striking Sderot, and it makes no difference if these are Hamas Qassams or Islamic Jihad Qassams. In other words, Israel is demanding from a body that it refuses to recognize not only that it put away its guns, but also that it stop the shooting by other organizations. In exchange for what? Nothing. Because even if Hamas makes the effort and even if it defends the borders, it is still a terror organization or at least an organization that does not recognize the countries whose borders it is being required to defend.

A paradox? It isn't the first in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But it might be interesting to ask the people of Sderot if they care if Hamas recognizes Israel, supports the right of return or adopts the road map. They want quiet, and they would not understand why Israel could not form a practical, give-and-take relationship with Hamas. True, if Hamas ceases fire as it is currently doing, that won't prevent the Islamic Jihad or any other gang from firing into Israeli territory. But can Israel itself absolutely prevent all the fire? Is it necessary to wait until the last of the gangsters decides to put down his weapons to negotiate with someone who is already prepared to discuss a cease-fire?

The question, of course, is irrelevant, because Israel is recycling the policy it used during the days of Arafat and Abbas. Until the fire stops from every direction, it said and it says, there will be no negotiations with any side. That is precisely the policy toward Hamas. So maybe the head of the Shin Bet really believes that his threat was enough to stop the fire. In that case he should try the no-no policy with the Islamic Jihad. It might even frighten them.