Yoel Bin-Nun

Negotiations – but not with war criminals

The reprehensible practice of using prisoners of war as human shields by the leaders of Hamas, denying them essential medical care and international oversight, constitutes—without any doubt—a grave violation of multiple conventions on warfare. Furthermore, engaging in negotiations with individuals implicated in such heinous acts, facilitated by the backing of an American president—initially via Qatar and now through Egypt—involves legitimizing serious war crimes.

While prioritizing the safety of kidnapped hostages initially seemed reasonable, especially when predominantly women and children were involved, the current trajectory of negotiations poses significant risks to the lives of the remaining hostages. Moreover, it inadvertently lends legitimacy to the ongoing war crimes committed by individuals associated with Hamas.

With Egypt assuming leadership in the negotiations from Qatar, a crucial proposal emerges: We must assertively urge every international entity, particularly the American White House, to make ending the ongoing war crimes the primary condition for resuming negotiations. This entails the immediate transfer of all hostages to Egyptian custody.

It is unjustifiable to pressure the Israeli government into negotiating with criminals who are currently holding abductees while perpetrating severe war crimes. Prior to any further discussions, Hamas must unequivocally transfer the abductees to Egypt. This stance should be the immediate response to any pressures from American and Egyptian entities.

Egypt holds a unique position to exert substantial pressure on Hamas within Rafah and Gaza. With the ability to threaten Hamas by withholding all aid except for essential provisions like water and food, and particularly by halting fuel transfers and completely sealing underground passages, Egypt possesses unparalleled leverage.

For Hamas to sustain itself in the Gaza Strip, it heavily relies on unimpeded access through Egypt. Thus, rather than exerting pressure on Israel, our focus should be on urging Egypt to demand the transfer of hostages. Only then can negotiations proceed without the constant specter of death looming over us, uncertain of who still survives each passing day.

To President Joe Biden:

Do you truly wish to leave a legacy as an American president who condoned the egregious war crimes committed by Hamas, in flagrant violation of international law? Consider whether such a stance aligns with your aspirations for the American presidency.

Instead of exerting pressure on Israel to accede to the demands of Hamas, redirect American influence towards Egypt and Qatar. Encourage them to cease their support for Hamas and insist on the immediate transfer of the hostages to Egypt before any negotiations resume. This approach not only safeguards the lives of the remaining abductees but also upholds the principles of international law. Moreover, it paves the way for a morally sound negotiation on the future of Gaza, involving Egypt and Israel.

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Yoel bin Nun is one of the founders of Yeshivat Har Etzion. He received his rabbinic training at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav and his Ph.D. from Hebrew University. In 1986, he established Michlelet Yaakov Herzog for training Jewish Studies teachers, especially in Bible instruction. Between 2000-2006 he served as the Rosh Ha-Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati in Ein Tzurim.
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