Laura Rozen, a highly impressive young journalist here in DC, has just done a great service to the cause of advancing more level headed thinking on Israel-Palestine issues by producing this interview with Halevy in Mother Jones. The interview is well worth reading in full but here are a few choice highlights.
Hamas is not al Qaeda and, indeed, al Qaeda has condemned them time and time again. Hamas may from time to time have tactical, temporary contact with al Qaeda, but in essence they are deadly adversaries. The same goes for Iran. Hamas receives funds, support, equipment, and training from Iran, but is not subservient to Tehran. A serious effort to dialogue indirectly with them could ultimately drive a wedge between them.
Halevy then describes the Hamas breakout from the “virtual siege” imposed on Gaza as only the latest in a string of strategic surprises to which “no effective counter strategy mounted by the US and Israel proved effective.” Halevy goes on to suggest “It makes sense to approach a possible initial understanding including Hamas—but not exclusively Hamas—at a time when they are still asking for one. No side will gain from a flare up leading to Israel re-entering the Gaza strip in strength to undo the ill-fated unilateral disengagement of 2005.”
He then goes on to question the wisdom of the demand on Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a precondition for talks. “Such a demand has never been made before either to an Arab state or to the Palestinian Liberation Organization/Fatah. There is logic in the Hamas' position that ideological "conversion" is the endgame and not the first move in a negotiation.” Halevy’s preference is for what he calls “indirect proximity engagement.”
At the same time, as Laura Rozen is helping to make us privy to the thinking of a former Mossad chief there seems to be some interesting developments on the ground. There are strong indications that Hamas is signaling a unilateral cessation of the rocket attacks on Israel with the intention that this would then lead to a reciprocal halt in Israel operations and ultimately to the locking-in of a ceasefire understanding. A unilateral ceasefire will not last long absent Israeli reciprocity but it could just begin to break the current escalatory cycle. My sources tell me that a third party is communicating on this between Hamas and the Israeli leadership and security establishment. More to follow on this story.