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That’s Not an Argument, It’s a Negotiation

June 9, 2010

Would this work?. Spencer Ackerman details an idea on how to paint Hamas into a corner with regard to the Freedom Flotilla snafu:

Henri Barkey, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Program, had an idea for Israel to turn the diplomatic tables on Hamas for the first time since establishing the Gaza blockade. They can reiterate their call for Hamas to release captured soldier Gilad Shalit; rely on international assurances against Hamas-driven attacks from across the border in Gaza; and then lifting the blockade. “You put this as your condition, and then you put Hamas in the corner,” Barkey said at a morning meeting at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “Because then Hamas will have to decide whether to accept these things, and you completely shift the discourse.”

Speaking of the Israelis, though, Barkey said, “I don’t know why they’re not doing it. To me that’s a no-lose situation, because the onus is on the other side. And then you ask for international guarantees, so you can say that if a rocket gets fired [into Israel] then Hamas will have to live with the consequences internationally.”

As Ackerman explains, the odds of this happening are pretty good (by that, I mean it’s not going to happen—the odds are like +1000).  It depends on how badly Netanyahu wants out of the flotilla debacle, and I don’t think he wants out of it badly enough to risk another attack on Israeli soil at the hands of Hamas.  His only real ally here is the United States, having lost Turkey a while ago (if only officially losing them recently) and getting zero sympathy from Europe.  How well would this go over with the Israeli populace?  And if Hamas does eventually attack Israel again (and the Israelis have a good reason to believe that it will—Hamas only denies Israel’s right to exist) then will we hear the cries of “disproportionate” warfare that we heard during Cast Lead?

The upside here for Israel isn’t really all that obvious.  Does it get Turkey back?  Probably not.  Does it get Europe back?  Maybe.  But what’s the downside?  What happens if Hamas does attack?  That’s not a “no-lose” situation—the losses could potentially include Israeli civilian lives.  Not to mention the worldwide castigation Israel would get if it responded to the attacks as it did during Cast Lead.  Lifting the blockade just doesn’t seem like an option for Bibi.  Israel has already started to ease the blockade—that’s probably what it’ll stay with for a while.

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