Justice Minister Tzipi Livini of Israel’s Hatnua party has put forth a diplomatic strategy that appears subtle and precise. It does something with Hamas that people may or may not immediately get.
Many who have been understandably enraged by Hamas want it gone. Critics of this visceral response have argued that logistically the removal of Hamas might entail years of war, certainly a lot more death, an Israeli occupation of Gaza that could last 5 years. Others have stated that In addition there is a strong likelihood of having to deal with the emergence of newer rebellious forces even more extreme and brutal than Hamas (M. Flynn, Ret. General, US Defense Intelligence Agency), although one wonders if any group could be much worse (J. Tobin).
In any case the “devil you know” dilemma appears to be side-stepped by Livni’s proposal. Were Hamas marginalized diplomatically by strengthening the PA, there would be opportunities for both Palestinians and Israelis for a “win-win” situation.
But what about Hamas? There is some talk that Fatah and Hamas cannot be divided. Fatah would only pay lip service to Israel while Hamas stays in the wings, calling the shots, being the real power.
That could be a problem, obviously, or it could be that Hamas turns into a Paper Tiger. If the working relationship between Fatah and Israel proves constructive, with real gains made economically and politically as experienced by the Palestinian people, it may not matter if they see green or yellow flags. And if the concern is that Hamas lays in wait, breaking out of their shadows and launching another war, how much in stark contrast will that be against the tangible gains made by the Palestinian and Israeli people?
In other words, after the accumulation of substantial cooperation and tangible evidence of real state building, a “break out” of Hamas would appear as a spoiler.
Those who continued to support Hamas would be those willing to forgo hard evidence of state building just to see Israel’s destruction. This may attract its followers but may not carry enough weight to pull in significant support.
Obviously Israel is not going to give up its security measures in preparation for any eventuality. However, Hamas’ aggressive posture could shrivel. Their brutal tactics could be seen for what they are. Fatah’s cooperation (no matter how much it may be feigned initially) might be laughed at or ridiculed by its constituency, as well as through the eyes of distrusting Israelis, but the results could be very real.