Hamas Backchannels

There have been foreshadowings for the past few weeks at least, but the NY Times now reports that Egypt is serving as an intermediary to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, with the approval of Washington. So for now we’ve managed to maintain the legal fiction that we’re not speaking to Hamas, but the question becomes for how long?

Bush administration officials are “not yet admitting to themselves that talking to Hamas is the inevitable path that they are walking on,” Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator, said. “What has changed is that there is now an appreciation that the security situation with Gaza could kill the peace process.”

As usual, sentiment in Israel seems to be much further down this slippery slope than in Washington. The arguments against including Hamas in any negotiations are compelling, but so are the costs (borne by the Israelis) of excluding them.

The entire situation seems so perniciously untractable, but whenever I find myself thinking that there’s no hope for a solution, something like Angela Merkel’s historic speech before the Knesset reminds me how dramatically the world can transform itself within the space of a generation or two.

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