Israel and Hamas lay groundwork for enduring coexistence

Efraim Halevy writes: he recent news out of the Middle East has been grim. But, if there’s an atmosphere of pessimism in the international press, that’s because the real story hasn’t been earning any attention—intentionally so. We can all read about Hamas’s daily maligning of Israel, and its promises to put an end to Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land, just as we can read about Israeli officials continuing to demand that Hamas recognize the right of Israel (including Jerusalem) to exist, knowing full well that no devout Muslim has ever done so, or can ever do so. The past month has also seen hunger strikes by prominent Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which have incited widespread demonstrations in Palestinian territories.

What hasn’t earned much attention are the successive rounds of negotiations between Israeli army officers and other security officials and their Egyptian counterparts, mostly in Cairo, parallel to those that the Egyptians have been conducting with Hamas personnel. These “non-negotiations” between Israel and Hamas might be critical in finding a durable solution for their conflict.

But both sides prefer to keep the talks quiet. Hamas and Israel each appreciate the advantages of maintaining a diplomatic fiction while they pursue their real interests. Each side can thus publicly maintain its ideological purity, biding its time as it ascertains the intentions of the other. The ultimate effect may be to lay the groundwork for a pragmatic, and unprecedented, system of coexistence. This may not be the classic “peace process,” but it is may prove a fateful process, nonetheless. [Continue reading…]

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