November 23, 2012

Hamas militants fight – and negotiate

Israel's hand also restrained by the new Egyptian leadership and the costs of a ground war.

By KARIN LAUB and SARAH EL DEEB The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Hamas militants talk during a press conference in Gaza City on Thursday. The poster reads: “Gaza won” and shows Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas leader assassinated on Nov. 14, which set off the last round of fighting.

The Associated Press

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A Palestinian boy and militants of the Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades attend funerals in central Gaza Strip of five Hamas militants killed in an Israeli airstrike.

The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

This includes allowing building materials for reconstruction into Gaza for the first time since 2007 and permitting trade between Gaza and the West Bank, the two territories that Palestinians hope will one day make up the bulk of their state. Eventually, Gaza-West Bank travel could also be considered, he said.

Such border changes, if approved by Israel's political leadership, could help reboot Gaza's battered economy, shore up Hamas' popularity and extend the Islamists' rule. In exchange, Hamas would have to stop arming itself and essentially give up what is now a pillar of its power.

Hamas' main gains have been in the political arena. Foreign ministers from the region rushed to Gaza over the past week to show support for Hamas, while the U.S. and Israel grudgingly acknowledged Hamas' central role by conducting indirect talks.

Hamas also managed to show up Abbas, its main Western-backed political rival who -- rendered largely irrelevant -- watched events unfold from the sidelines.

Netanyahu's willingness to negotiate a truce deal with Hamas, while refusing to engage Abbas on the same terms as previous Israeli prime ministers, reinforced many Palestinians' belief that Israel only responds to force. If Hamas extracts border concessions from Israel, this would further discredit Abbas, the most prominent Palestinian proponent of non-violence and of negotiating the terms of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

With Hamas doing the fighting and the negotiating, Abbas and prospects for a two-state solution to the Mideast conflict "are on the losing end," said the International Crisis Group think tank.

The Israeli offensive, added Washington-based analyst Jonathan Alterman, may have "provoked one of the more profound shifts in Palestinian politics."


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Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s Hamas prime minister, waves at the crowd while celebrating the cease-fire.

The Associated Press


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