Gershon Baskin

After a long phone conversation with a Hamas leader in Gaza


Gershon Baskin. Photo: Otmar Steinbicker

A few days ago I wrote here about the apparent power struggles within the military and political wings of Hamas. After a long phone conversation with a Hamas leader in Gaza last evening I came to fully understand what the issues are about.

Hamas continues to claim that they had nothing to do with the murder of the three Israeli teens in Gush Etzion, yet as a result of the murder, Israel arrested 500 people in the West Bank, most of them connected to Hamas -politically and militarily. The few Hamas social institutions that were still working in the West Bank were shut down. People released in the Schalit exchange were re-arrested, even though, according to Hamas, they did not breach the terms of their release, e.g. returning to terrorism. This is why Hamas has not stopped the rocket fire from Gaza, even though they are clearly against escalation. They have issued their demands through the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to transmit them to Israel to release those prisoners from the Schalit exchange and all of those under administrative detention.

Of course Israel responded angrily to those demands and said that Hamas is in no position to make demands and that if the rocket fire did not stop immediately, Israel would respond with massive military force and also target Hamas leaders in Gaza. Hamas has not stopped the rocket fire and last night nine Palestinians in Gaza were killed, seven of them, it seems were Hamas military people.

Now Hamas is calling for revenge and and if so will fall into the well known trap of forcing a large Israeli military attack.

In my conversation, I suggested that instead of making demands now, Hamas should prove that they are capable of stopping the rocket fire. They should get to a period of quiet and calm and then through the Palestinian Authority talk to Israel about whatever demands they may have. Right now the option they are pushing for is one that will get a lot of people killed. The only outcome for Hamas will be more suffering for their people, even if they get more public-political support for themselves at a time when they are extremely weak. The price for that will be very high.

Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority want the area to go back to calm. The unrest and violence does not serve the interests of the Palestinians in the West Bank either. Their road to victory is paved on a non-violent struggle. The current violence does not serve Palestinian interests. And although everyone is very angry and want revenge and want to let off steam, those understandable emotional expressions will only lead to more people being killed, a lot more suffering, and political losses.

If both sides wanted to do something immediately to calm the situation Netanyahu and Abu Mazen together would make a condolence visit to the Abu Khdeir family. I passed this suggestion on to Netanyahu's office. Understanding that he is unlikely to accept the idea, I also proposed it to President Peres who might understand the possible historic role that he could play in bringing about an end to the current round of violence.

Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His new book, Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel, has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew.

Gershon Baskin ist Autor des Aachener Friedensmagazins Seine Beiträge finden Sie hier

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