Gaza cease-fire: will it give Hamas greater clout?
The agreement may mark a break with a longstanding Israeli and American boycott of the Islamic militant organization, giving Hamas incentive to enforce the deal.
Tel Aviv, Israel
For all the official downplaying of the Gaza cease-fire declared Thursday between Hamas and Israel, as well as predictions of its imminent demise, the agreement may mark a break with a longstanding Israeli and American boycott of the Islamic militant organization.Skip to next paragraph
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Israel's de facto recognition of Hamas's rule in Gaza, analysts say, holds the prospect of widening international acceptance for the organization, giving it a compelling incentive to keep up its end of the bargain.
"This is the power that Israel has to deal with," says Meir Javedanfar, a Tel Aviv-based Middle East analyst. "It's not full diplomatic recognition, but Israel has recognized Hamas as an important party – on some issues it can't be avoided.
"Israel is showing that its past policy of refusing to talk to militant organizations, something which it has been preaching to the US, is not always functional," he adds. "Jerusalem has realized that talking to its enemies is the shortest and most cost effective path militarily, economically, and strategically."
In its official statements, Israel took pains to argue that the truce was not the product of negotiations with Hamas, but rather of an Egyptian compromise proposal. "The Israeli position regarding Hamas as a terror organization has not changed one iota," read a Foreign Ministry announcement.
But beyond its new-found credibility as an partner (even if indirect) for talks, Hamas is now in a position to demonstrate to Israel, the Arab world, and the international community that it has the ability and will to enforce a truce in Gaza over objections of the myriad of militant groups there. It's a sign of sovereignty that would strike a contrast with the inability of President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority to control armed groups.
If the truce holds, Israel will on Sunday boost supplies of food and medicines into Gaza.
Hamas, the Egyptians, and the Palestinian Authority are expected to start talks on setting up a mechanism to reopen the Rafah border terminal, the only civilian crossing for Gaza's 1.5 million residents. Taking responsibility for a functioning international border would mark another sign of sovereign rule for Hamas. Talks are also expected to restart on a prisoner swap that would free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after two years in captivity.