Former US President Jimmy Carter announced that the Hamas leadership is “very eager” to resume negotiations with Israel in order to complete the prisoner exchange deal, which would include the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who has been held captive in the Gaza Strip for the past four years. In a press conference in Jerusalem, Carter announced that “they [Hamas] let us know…they are very eager to process” with the negotiations.
The question that must be asked here is; what is more important to Hamas – which now wants to negotiate with Netanyahu’s government – negotiating with the Israelis for the sake of releasing Gilad Shalit, or negotiating [with the Israelis] in order to liberate the Palestinian territories and therefore establish a Palestinian state? Is this Israeli soldier more important than the suffering of the Palestinians, and the dream of a [Palestinian] state, something that has cost the Palestinians and the Arabs a generation of conflict, killing, and destruction?
Someone might say: Hamas will negotiate through the German mediator, very well, however why do they attack Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and accuse him of betrayal even when he said that he would enter into indirect negotiations with Israel in order to end the conflict with Israel and establish a Palestinian state? Why is this halal [religiously permissible] for Hamas, but haram [religiously prohibited] for Abbas?
What is strange is that Carter said that “they are very glad that the German negotiator has been back on the scene lately and that Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has made some positive statements about a prisoner exchange.” How can it be said that the Israeli prime minister’s remarks are positive and can be trusted when the issue is related to Hamas, however when Abbas is involved it is said that he is wasting time and that Netanyahu cannot be trusted.
Here we must note that the public position of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movement towards the Shalit negotiations – according to former US president Carter – is nothing more than an extension to the messages sent by the Hamas movement to the US administrations since the start of the recent peace negotiations. These messages aimed to ensure that the Hamas movement is recognized by the US, and thereby ensure it a position in power [in any future Palestinian state]. Therefore how can we understand Hamas wanting to negotiate with Israel today after it previously called on Abbas not to negotiate with Israel, and in fact accused him of treason and called on him to resign [as a result of this].
Some people might say that Hamas have criticized the negotiations, and Abbas, due to Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, and that there should be no negotiations in light of this continued settlement construction. However this is illogical, for how can it be permissible for Hamas to negotiate [with Israel] – even on a prisoner exchange deal – whilst settlement activity is ongoing, and it be not permissible for Abbas to do the same?
Therefore, if Hamas believes that the Shalit negotiations are more important than negotiating for the sake of a Palestinian state, this is a disaster, however accepting such logic would be an ever greater disaster. We must learn from Hezbollah’s experience in Lebanon in 2006, where around 1,200 Lebanese were killed in a war with Israel over the capture of two Israeli soldiers – not to mention the material losses – only for it later to be discovered that these two Israeli soldiers had already been killed and were lifeless corpses. Must the entire Palestinian cause be destroyed in order for Hamas to ensure that it has a seat at the table?
In conclusion, what we are seeing today is Netanyahu freely moving to choose what he wants and does not want in the negotiations with the Palestinians, and unfortunately this is something that is happening with the help of Hamas.