I don’t know if all of the talk of an imminent Israel-Hamas long term ceasefire deal is true. I know for sure that Tony Blair is trying to negotiate such a deal and he has successfully involved both Qatar and Turkey. I just can’t see any reason to believe that Netanyahu and his government are actively playing along. Actually, there is one reason why it might be true – any such deal is a final blow to Abu Mazen, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. But Palestinians should understand that an Israeli-Hamas deal essentially creates a Palestinian state in Gaza only and takes all of the wind out of the Palestinian sails to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank. The world will perceive that Palestine is free and the Palestinian issue is resolved. Such a deal once again empowers the extremists at the expense of the moderates. Hamas will not change its ideology of seeking Israel’s destruction. But Fatah will no longer have any power to present a moderate alternative and Palestinians will once again understand that Israel understands only the language of violence and force.
Yes the siege of Gaza must end and the people of Gaza must have freedom and be able to move in and out of Gaza. Israel must have security and there can be a more open Gaza and security for Israel. But the best way for us all to deal with Gaza is in the framework of a regional step in which Israel accepts the Arab Peace Initiative as the basis for negotiations with the Palestinians and brings Gaza to a regional table. Making an agreement with Hamas is not in the interests of Israel or the Palestinians – which is the main reason why I think that this story is a lot more Tony Blair hype than reality.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.