Why Is Netanyahu Talking to Hamas? Because He Knows No Peace Will Come of It

It’s not clear whether Israel liked the 'accord' crafted by the Egyptians, but we could have lived with it, at least until the next war.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Ministe Moshe Ya'alon watching a Golani Brigade exercise.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, who did well in the primary. Credit: GPO
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

It’s like scotch tape. The more you try to get rid of it, the more it clings to your fingers.

The day before the parties were supposed to close a deal in Cairo, rockets began drizzling on Israel’s south. Even though we’re used to our interlocutor flexing his muscles from time to time, Israel didn’t even turn on its rocket-warning sirens. It didn’t even turn them on near midnight when a loud boom shook the windows in Tel Aviv.

That’s how negotiations are, an insider reassured me. In negotiations, the parties snarl at each other across the conference table; in this case, mortar shells are flying. It’s not clear whether Israel liked the “accord” crafted by the Egyptian mediator, but we could have lived with it, at least until the next war.

What Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading isn’t an attack on Gaza but an embarrassment, a Labor MK told me. He said the prime minister had fallen in love with his Churchillian posturing as a war leader, flanked by the military chief of staff and the defense minister.

Sixty-four of our soldiers have been killed in Operation Protective Edge, a campaign that has cost about 10 billion shekels ($2.8 billion). Retaking Gaza would have been madness; even discussing the option is irresponsible.

Of all the options, a select group of cabinet members (Bibi) chose to target Hamas’ military leaders. At midweek the target was Mohammed Deif, the head of the military wing. Early Thursday it was two other top guys, the commanders of the Rafah and southern divisions.

Although we’ve done this once or twice before, this correspondent doesn’t believe in eliminating the bigwigs in our conflicts with our neighbors and enemies. Killing Ahmed Jabari, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi didn’t diminish the hatred for us in Gaza.

On the contrary, Deif has survived five attempts to kill him to become Hamas’ top military authority. De facto he has ruled the civilian side too from his basement hideouts. In trying to kill him, the air force destroyed a six-story building, killing Deif’s wife and son and maybe a few VIPs. If he was killed, Deif could become a legend, though the graveyards are full of people they said couldn’t be replaced.

The exception is Khaled Meshal, who once survived a Mossad plan to kill him in Jordan using a fatal “heart attack” injection. The Mossad agents were arrested and, following an ultimatum by King Hussein, Israel not only had to fly over an antidote, it had to release Yassin from prison, after which Hamas flourished.

With some justice, one could say we founded Hamas as it is today. Meshal is living like a king in a royal suite in Qatar, from where he determines what happens and doesn’t happen in Gaza. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas humbles himself before Meshal. If I were a Gazan, I’d found a movement to bring Meshal back to Gaza and see what he could do.

Bibi, posturing as uber-leader, is pursuing a policy that nobody has before: negotiating with Hamas. They fire at us and we talk to them? Yes. Because Bibi is confident that no peace will come of this. So let’s stop the firing.

Some observers advocate retaking Gaza; some suggest giving the Gazans the amenities they want – a port and an airport; we can always change our minds. “Why don’t we go in and wipe out Hamas?” an interviewee asked on television. Nonsense, another interviewee said; it’s like coitus interruptus. No child will be born of this. Cry the beloved country with leaders like this.

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