A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect just a couple of days ago. If the ceasefire holds for three days, Israel is obliged to increase fuel supplies to Gaza, and then Hamas and Israel are expected to renew indirect talks in Cairo next week over a prisoner exchange. Israel is seeking the release of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, while Hamas is looking at the release of more than 10,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Earlier this month, Israel released a Hezbollah operative in exchange for the bodily remains of Israeli soldiers through the International Committee of the Red Cross. A larger deal is currently in the making. According to Lebanese media, a German-brokered prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah seems to be imminent.
On the surface, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and a prisoner swap deal between Hezbollah and Israel provide a glimmer of hope for a period of tranquility between the conflicting parties. However, in this inflamed region previous ceasefires have been broken and prisoner swap deals have not prevented future confrontations. To be precise, the terms "truce" and "ceasefire" are mistranslations of the Arabic word for "tahdiyeh" which actually means temporary calm. Tahdiyeh is the word carefully used by Hamas rather than "hudna" which means "truce."
More intriguing though, is the fact that Israel has been negotiating with two "terrorist groups" who do not recognize "Israel's right to exist." For the past several weeks, the Israeli government has been heavily engaged in indirect negotiations with its two arch enemies in contradiction to the policy of its greatest benefactor, the U.S., and its champion of champions, President George W. Bush.
Both Hamas and Hezbollah are on the U.S. State Department's list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
Just recently, President Bush stood in front of the Israeli Knesset and boasted that negotiating with "terrorists and radicals" amounted to Munich-style "appeasement." His statement got Israelis applauding and U.S. presidential candidates reiterating their support of Israel and rejection of talks with Hamas. This explains why in the midst of all this, Ehud Olmert seemed a bit uncomfortable. It was not because of all the stories about him receiving numerous envelopes filled with cash from a Long Island businessman, but rather that while Bush was making his "appeasement" speech, his team in Egypt was dotting the I's and crossing the T's on an agreement reached by Egyptian mediators with one of the "terrorist" groups being singled out by Bush.
Many Israeli analysts argue that the "tahdiyeh" between Hamas and Israel is a necessary step to avoid heavy casualties in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, while others believe that this is yet another distraction by Olmert to gain a reprieve from his financial scandal. Regardless of the reasons and whether this temporary ceasefire will last or not, Hamas will emerge as the victor and will gain some recognition just as Hezbollah emerged as a victor after the Doha agreement. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who once declared Hamas illegal, will soon travel to Gaza for reconciliation talks.
Oh, did I forget to mention how Carter was vilified by the Bush Administration's quasi media machine at FOX, as well as other surrogate outlets because he had met with Hamas officials? And how Olmert dodged the former president and how he was shunned by Israeli politicians when he traveled to Jerusalem? But then again, Israel gets a pass. Appeasement... Israeli style.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV