It’s Time for Netanyahu to Call Hamas’ Bluff
The earlier failure to achieve a new and lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was not surprising. For Hamas to demand the complete lifting of the blockade without demilitarizing Gaza is a pipedream; no Israeli prime minster will ever agree to ease the blockade, let alone lift it altogether, and give Hamas the time and resources to rebuild its rocket inventory and tunnels. Israel, on the other hand, cannot continue to enforce the blockade and expect Hamas and the Palestinians to accept that with equanimity.
Netanyahu can win huge international support by calling Hamas’ bluff and offer to lift the blockade completely and allow the Palestinians to build a seaport and airport, provided that Hamas agrees to demilitarize Gaza and openly forsake violence. Netanyahu should offer to implement the agreement in a number of phases, over a period of four to five years, and be based on predetermined reciprocal phases to allow for confidence building. Any ceasefire, however long, will simply not work unless it has these clear objectives; otherwise, it will be only a prelude to the next round of fighting.
If Hamas is really concerned about the future well-being of the Palestinians in Gaza, it will have no reason but to accept such an offer. But if Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel and is willing to sacrifice Palestinian men, women, and children to achieve its elusive dream, then it will reject the offer.
It is time for both Netanyahu and Hamas’ leaders to face the truth and show their true intentions as neither can have it both ways.
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.