Yair Lapid, the Israeli Minister of Finance and chairman of the Yesh Atid Party told the Wall Street Journal in an article dated May 2, 2014 that

…there is a chance Israel could potentially conduct talks with Hamas if the group renounces terror and recognizes Israel.”

Let’s parse this statement.

First, it’s a conditional.

“if the group…” then “there is a chance Israel could potentially conduct talks with Hamas.”

So unless the conditions are satisfied,, it follows that the statement evaluates as false, and he says that  Israel will not  “potentially conduct talks with Hamas.”

Hamas,  “enthusiasm”, is an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah, the “Islamic Resistance Movement. It is a terror organization of Sunni Moslems with an associated military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Since June 2007 Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip and al-Qassam Brigades has launched repeated attacks on Israel, against both civilian and military targets.

The Hamas Charter, affirmed in 1988, states that that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. in July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas’s political bureau chief, said the organization was willing to cooperate with “a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders”, provided that “Palestinian refugees hold the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be the new nation’s capital.”

There has  never been any modification to these statements. Hamas’ charter calls for Israel’s destruction, and it has launched numerous rockets into Israel from Gaza.

It remains on the US State Department’s list of terrorist groups and US law forbids direct dealings with it.

What does Lapid thik will happen?  Is he planning for more Israeli concessions (he has given no such indication)? Will Hamas suddenly do an about face?

As to the second, possibility, I’m not holding my breath. I can’t speak for what Mr. Lapid plans to do. But I won’t hold my breath for him to propose radical changes in foreign policy that would violate the terms of the coalition agreement that got him into power.

Much as Lapid and the Americans (i.e., Secretary of State John Kerry) might like it to be otherwise, Mr. Lapid is not Israel’s Prime Minister and Benjamin Netanyahu retains his popularity on the job.

As reported by Times of Israel, American officials directly involved in the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace process over the last nine months wish it were otherwise. They gave a leading Israeli columnist

a withering assessment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, indicated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and warned Israel that the Palestinians will achieve statehood in any case — either via international organizations or through violence.”

It won’t help them.

As quoted in the New York Times,

[Israel] will not resume negotiations with any Palestinian government that is supported by Hamas, even if that government is made up of political independents and apolitical technocratic figures who meet international conditions for acceptance. An Israeli official said on Monday that Israel had in the past received “a specific commitment from the American administration” backing that position — a claim that appeared to be at odds with some more recent signals from Washington.

Adding fuel to the flames, Taher al-Nounou, an adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, reiterated that Hamas would not recognize Israel.

Furthermore, according to a recent Smith Poll, the popular Prime Minister said he intended to promote legislation bolstering the status of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, anchoring the principle as one of the basic laws that serve as the country’s Constitution. “keeping his standing as a responsible leader who did not use the Hamas government to make a quick gain.”

Hamas’ “conditions” will not be met on Netanyahu’s watch.

But for the fun of it, let’s evaluate what happens, hypothetically, if Mr. Lapid’s conditions are satisfied.

“Chance:” is a way of quantifying likelihood or probability. Under US casino rules, the odds of winning a bet on a single number in Roulette is 1 in 35 or 2.63%. The House has a 5.26% advantage.

That’s what “chance” means. How much are you risking? What is the probability of success, and what is the house advantage. When the odds aren’t goot, then it’s a a sucker bet , a gambling wager in which the expected return is significantly lower than the wager. For example, the chances of correctly guessing the order of the final 3 cards of Faro is usually 1 in 6, yet the bet only pays 4:1 or 5:1. Over time, playing long enough, you are sure to lose your shirt.

Yair Lapid proposes that Israel make a sucker bet. Mathematically, the odds a little better than “heads i win, tails you lose” where the expected win is 0%, but not much better.

According to Al Jazeera, on May 13, 2013,

The Palestinian Hamas movement has rejected a revised Middle East peace initiative put forward by the Arab League, saying outsiders can not decide the fate of the Palestinians.

In meetings this week in Washington, Arab states appeared to soften their 2002 peace plan, acknowledging that Israelis and Palestinians may have to swap land in any eventual peace deal.

The United States and the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank praised the move. But speaking to hundreds of worshippers in a mosque in the Gaza Strip on Friday, senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said it was a concession that other Arabs were not authorised to make.”


Lapid knows better. As a former, and successful venture capitalist, he understands how to evaluate risk.

So what is really going on here?

Lapid is  simply seeking to bolster his standing among Israel’s Left.

Let’s go back to the Smith poll.

The poll found that voters Tzippi Livni’s ‘peacenik” party Hatnua are disappointed and its voters have switched to Meretz, which, under chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On. It has jumped in the poll to ten Knesset seats. Other Hatnua voters say they will give their support to the Arab parties, and to the Labor Party, which is projected to gain two Knesset seats.

Habayit Hayehudi chairman MK Naftali Bennett reportedly gains and loses nothing from the collapse of the peace talks.

In  the poll, Yesh Atid is projected to lose another seat to 14 Knesset seats from 15  in an earlier poll and 19 seats in the last elections. Habayit Hayehudi is projected to retain the 12 seats it won in the last elections. Hatnua would win no seats, down from three Knesset seats in the previous poll, and six seats in the last elections.

In other words, Lapid’s “offer” has nothing at all to do with Hamas and everything to do with Israeli elections. He just is angling to gain the seats the poll suggests are up for grab as center-left parties lose ground.

David E Y Sarna is a writer and former entrepreneur. He has eight published books including his latest, Evernote For Dummies, V2. He has nearly completed his first novel about the Mossad and the Jewish treasures in the Vatican’s secret archives. He is hard at work on a book about the Talmud for general readers.


© 2014 by David E Y Sarna