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Israeli-Hamas Truce: An Opportunity In Disguise

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Reprinted from Alon Ben-Meir Blog

Israel and Hamas are reportedly discussing a long-term truce. Although Israeli officials claim it is merely a rumor and that there are no direct or indirect negotiations with Hamas, many signs suggest that a deal is imminent. Whether or not such a deal is being negotiated, however, Israel and Hamas should aggressively pursue it as both can greatly benefit from it on several levels. The Palestinian Authority's (PA) objection to the truce, characterizing it as a kiss of death to the two-state solution, is completely misplaced. The prospective truce has critical strategic implications that could markedly advance the overall Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The truce should come as no surprise to anyone given the situation in Gaza in the wake of the last Hamas-Israel war in the summer of 2014 and the terrible devastation that the Palestinians in Gaza sustained, not to speak of the changing political winds in the region.

Hamas has come to a different conclusion, realizing that Israel is an unshakable reality and has begun to look for ways to accommodate the Israelis in return for easing the blockade and eventually lifting it altogether.

What has added urgency to Hamas's change of direction is the Palestinian public's mounting pressure, demanding an end to the conflict with Israel which robbed three generations of their basic right to live with dignity and left them with no prospect for a better future.

Notwithstanding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's denial, in recent months, Israel and Hamas entered into secret negotiations to work out a permanent ceasefire. Simultaneously, Israel began to ease the blockade, creating a much more conducive atmosphere to further the negotiations about a long-term truce.

Once the temporary informal ceasefire was established immediately after the last war, both Israel and Hamas carefully observed it. In fact, Hamas' internal security personnel have systematically been arresting and sometime shooting to kill jihadists who violate the ceasefire.

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Although many on both sides characterize the new phase between Israel and Hamas as a "coexistence of convenience," Hamas does not seek another violent conflagration with Israel, knowing that challenging Israel militarily again will only bring more ruin and less relief.

There are several reasons behind Hamas' and Israel's desire to establish a longer-term truce (expected to last 8-10 years) which further explains why it may well become inevitable, as it has many significant advantages to both sides.

For Hamas, the truce will:

Allow Hamas to assert its political governance over Gaza and distance itself from the PA without compromising their "official" position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

Allow for economic recovery through substantial reconstruction of the devastated areas in Gaza following last summer's war with Israel, and gradually end the blockade;

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Provide job opportunities in Gaza, allowing thousands of Palestinian day laborers to work in Israel while expanding trade in both directions;

Permit Hamas to build a floating port off the coast of Gaza and guarantee naval passage between Gaza and Northern Cyprus, monitored by Turkey; and

Improve and eventually normalize relations with Egypt, maintain an open border crossing, and provide the Palestinians an opening to the Egyptian market.

Finally, given the growing tension between the Arab Sunni world and Shiite Iran, Hamas's leadership concluded that regardless of its closeness to Iran, it must cast their lot with their Sunni brethren.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. His dedication to writing about, analyzing, and (more...)

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