The left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz published poll results on Friday showing that 57 percent of Israelis are in favor of talking to the militant Islamist organization Hamas under certain conditions. That position was put forward earlier this week by former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, a leading politician in the opposition party Kadima. (Read more about Mr. Mofaz’s new peace plan here.)
Not surprisingly, 72 percent of Kadima voters shared Mofaz’s willingness to talk with Hamas, whose control of the Gaza Strip would make any deal with the mainstream Fatah faction necessarily incomplete. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party are strongly opposed to talking to Hamas, whose charter calls for replacing Israel with an Islamic state in Palestine.
But interestingly, 53 percent of Israelis who support Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party also support talks with Hamas, though the Haaretz article did not spell out exactly what conditions Hamas would have to fulfill.
In a rare interview with The New York Times earlier this year, Hamas’s exiled political chief, Khaled Meshaal, said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along Israel's pre-1967 borders in exchange for a long-term truce. While Hamas’s founding principles forbid ceding any land to Israel, Mr. Meshaal told the Times that “it’s not logical for the international community to get stuck on sentences written 20 years ago.”
Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, came to power in 2006 Palestinian elections – the same year that it struck an Israeli nerve by kidnapping a young soldier, Gilad Shalit. Since violently ousting Fatah from Gaza, Hamas has controlled the coastal strip. Though its popularity has waned since Israel launched a blistering three-week offensive last winter that killed some 1,400 Palestinians, Hamas has become more dominant economically and has made moves to make the relatively secular society more Islamist.
Hamas and Fatah have so far failed to reconcile after their violent falling out in 2007. Egyptian-brokered talks appeared to be on the brink of producing a deal, which then fell through last month. The bitter rivals have been detaining each other's supporters – Hamas corralling Fatah supporters in Gaza to prevent them from rallying on the Nov. 11 anniversary of iconic leader Yasser Arafat's death, and security forces loyal to Fatah chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rounding up Hamas supporters in the West Bank on Thursday and Friday.