Steven Balkin
Inspired by Martin Buber and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Responding to Hamas Truce Offer

people in Rafah, Gaza, are displaced and living in schools, tents or the homes of friends and relatives, part of a desperate search for any safe refuge. (Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

A recent April 25, 2024 Associated Press article by Abby Sewall reports that Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya “agrees to a truce of five years or more with Israel and that it would lay down its weapons and convert into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established along pre-1967 borders.”

In a recent Times of Israel blogpost I have suggested that Israel try to defeat Hamas ideologically rather than militarily or politically, and use it as a basis for a permanent peace.

The Netanyahu Coalition has dismissed Hayya’s offer.  I think it should seriously consider it. The key issues in this are the conditions Israel places along side Hamas’s offer.  If Hamas wants to be taken seriously in its offer, as a sign of good faith, it must first unconditionally release all remaining hostages.  This would certainly give it credibility and put tremendous pressure on Israel, inside and outside of Israel, to work towards a ceasefire and peace agreement.  I do not understand why the pro-Palestinian protesters all over the world are not making this demand along with their insistence for a ceasefire.

A question on Reddit was posed: “Should Democrats and Pro-Palestinian Activists Call for Hamas to Surrender and Release The Hostages Rather Than Call for a Cease-Fire? … They (the Squad)  claim that they are not pro-Hamas but simply pro-Palestinian and only want the Palestinians who live under Hamas’ rule not to die in the war and live in peace. … Hamas can’t possibly win the war and defeat Israel militarily, so prolonging it doesn’t do the Palestinian people any good. A Hamas surrender would end the war immediately and no more Palestinians would die. That seems like a pro-Palestine position to me.”

Other Along-Side Conditions
Chief among the other along-side conditions is that there be a monitor country that both Hamas and Israel can trust that attaches itself physically to Hamas inside Gaza, to monitor Hamas’s compliance to the peace treaty.

It is well known that Hamas can not be trusted to keep its word and  that the October 7 Massacre was facilitated through Hamas deception, tricking Netanyahu’s Likud Coalition by feigning détente.

I have suggested the following countries be considered to be a monitor: the EU, Ireland, Canada, and South Africa.  I think both Hamas and Israel would approve them for this role.  Noticeably absent are Arab and Muslim countries.  There are several to be trusted but they could be destabilized in their street by playing such a peacemaker monitor role.  If this has changed, they should join the potential monitor universe too.

Francesca Albanese, in her UN Human Rights report of March 25, 2024 advocated, “in consultation with the State of Palestine, deploy an international protective presence to constrain the violence.” That international protective presence is my along-side requirement for a monitor country to protect Israelis and Palestinians from Hamas violence and to protect Gazans from Israel military actions.

The following is my next set of along-side conditions that Hamas needs to comply with to get to a long term truce.
*Cease diverting aid to military uses

*Eliminate 13 anti-Israel and anti-Jewish articles in the 36 articles of Hamas’s 1988 Covenant. Eliminate similar articles in its revised 2017 Covenant, which some call cosmetic strategic deception.

*Remove the map of Israel from the center top of the Hamas emblem to show instead only Gaza and the West Bank.

*Cease teaching anti-Israel and anti-Jewish topics in all schools and colleges, religious and secular.

*Cease the publication of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish books, educational materials, and propaganda.

*Compliance to Singapore’s Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act

.*Compliance to UN’s Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

*Cease violent behavior towards individual Palestinians, groups of Palestinians, and any Palestinians that seek co-operation with Israel.

*Willingness to run for Gazan parliamentary elections on a regular basis.  Elections are to be held every two years.  Violence nor the threat of violence can be directed to any Palestinians representing any political party running for election.

*Accept non-belligerent occupation by a sympathetic monitor country or organization to ensure non-violence (de-militarization and de-radicalization), peaceful co-existence with Israel, and compliance with all the along-side conditions.

*Hamas allies (Iran, Hezbollah, Houthis, Iraqi Shiite militias) stop all military aggression towards Gaza and Israel.

*As an extra measure of safety, Israel should be allowed to maintain a presence in the newly created Gazan buffer zone for a period of three years. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) can then quickly invade into Gaza if Hamas reneges on its compliance to the peace agreement, where the monitor country can no longer fulfill Hamas’s compliance to the along-side conditions and protect against Hamas violence.

What does Hamas Get?
It gets to survive and avoids the IDF military assault into Rafah which keeps alive what remains of Hamas members and saves the lives of civilian Palestinians who have not moved to a safe zone. It also gets a long term ceasefire.  And if Hamas adheres to all the side conditions of the peace agreement as outlined above, they get the opportunity to maintain political influence in Gaza.

Hamas can expect to live in peace in a Palestinian State that will be rebuilt and have high levels of economic and human development.  The model for this is Post World War Germany and Japan.

The West Bank
I have not specified what happens in the West Bank.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) is in a condition of restructure and reformation.  That may take time to accomplish and, when completed, they may easily be able to merge with Hamas or they may choose not to do it for the near future.  Similarly, I leave it to the PA to eventually have the political authority for the West Bank and for them to negotiate with Israel for how the settlers are incorporated or not incorporated into the West Bank.

The West Bank’s existence as a Palestinian State would, as for Gaza, be conditional upon compliance with the along-side conditions above.  Gaza and the West Bank may quickly merge into one Palestinian State or they may maintain separation for a long time.

It was expressed to me as a criticism from one reader that if Hamas agreed to the along-side conditions above, they wouldn’t be Hamas.  I agree!!  That is the point of my strategy suggestion.  Hamas may have to give up parts of their ideology and interpretations of conservative Islam but, as a result, they create a better world for the Middle East, for Arabs, for Palestinians, for Muslims, and for Israelis. It is then in Israel’s and the Likud’s court to encourage this to happen.

Of course, I am just an outside observer and policy theorist. I leave it to Israel and its allies, and Hamas and its allies, to do the detailed negotiations to generate a treaty that they, and their constituent populations, can live with.  It is saving lives, living-in-peace, feeling secure, and stability which has to be the goals.


About the Author
Dr. Steven Balkin is a Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University in Chicago where he teaches courses in economics, social justice, and criminal justice. His PhD. is from Wayne State University in Detroit. He is the author of many articles and a book: Self-Employment for Low Income People. His research focus is on violence prevention, international development, entrepreneurship, and cultural preservation. He is a member of the Chicago Political Economy Group.
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