As Gaza cease-fire holds, Israel eases economic blockade
Some analysts says that Hamas's ability to enforce the Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel could widen international acceptance of the militant Islamist organization.
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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 1.4 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 Corporal Shalit after two years in captivity.Skip to next paragraph
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Ghassan Khatib, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority, predicted that the cease-fire would boost Hamas's standing in Palestinian and Arab public opinion, while marginalizing Mr. Abbas.
"Hamas is the party that can fire, and the party that can cease the fire. That is very significant as far as Hamas is concerned," he says. "The international community will take notice of the fact that Israel is indirectly reaching an agreement with Hamas, and that will put Hamas on a different standing."
To be sure, international recognition is unlikely to come immediately. On Thursday, United Nations Middle East Envoy Robert Serry told Israel Radio the international community hasn't changed its policy toward Hamas, though he said he hoped that the cease-fire would help Hamas come out of its isolation. Mr. Serry was alluding to three conditions – recognition of Israel, past treaties, and disavowing violence – for gaining political acceptance.
Ironically, it was Israel that rallied the US and the international community to hold Hamas to those conditions. But critics of the cease-fire said that by agreeing to the truce, Israel has led the way toward ignoring those conditions.
"Jerusalem was the first to tear an opening in the wall of the boycott," wrote Sever Plocker, a commentator for the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. "Without any political, ideological, or strategic concession on its part, Hamas received recognition from Israel as the legitimate landlord of the Gaza Strip, an authentic representative of the Palestinian people, and a partner for various arrangements. This is a priceless gift to Hamas."
Still, the cease-fire was not a one-sided affair in favor of Hamas, some analysts say. Mohammad Dejani, a political science professor at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, says it represented Hamas's de facto recognition of Israel as well as an endorsement of the peace process – even if it is referred to in Arabic as a tahdiyeh, or calm.
Mr. Dejani said that he's convinced the cease-fire will lead to full-blown peace talks. "I am sure that there are also negotiations regarding the bigger picture. This a rational assumption," he says. "It could build trust and there could be steps to follow. The assumption is that it will not stop here."