Thursday, June 19, 2003

# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAITING FOR POWELL: With the arrival of the Secretary of State now imminent, the participants in the Roadmap process have been making last-minute efforts to improve their negotiating positions.

Ariel Sharon has upset both Israeli doves and the New York Times by telling the Knesset that his government would crush Hamas if its attacks on Israeli citizens continued. Then Sharon ordered the armed forces to dismantle, for the first time, an inhabited Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Given that actions speak louder than words, it would seem that Sharon wants to show Powell that he is serious about implementing the Road Map. At the same time, he is covering his right-wing with conditional threats to destory Hamas.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli plan for withdrawal from Northern Gaza, arguing that the plan does not grant it either sufficient control or enough territory. At the same time, the PA is talking up the prospects of a ceasefire with Hamas and other militants.

In tandem, these two moves suggest that the PA wants Powell to believe that it can deliver a ceasefire provided that he forces the Israelis to make further concessions related to the Gaza withdrawal. The question, of course, is whether there is any hope of a Hamas ceasefire.

According to Zvi Bar'el, Arab affairs commentator for Ha'aretz, Hamas can invoke the concept of hudna, or truce, to justify a ceasefire that might otherwise seem to contradict its doctrine of unflagging resistance to Israel.

Under hudna, Hamas is permitted to cooperate with more moderate Palestinians in order to make tactical gains such as the establishment of a Palestinian. Once that happens, it can begin its resistance again. While that sort of Trojan Horse strategy is exactly what Israelis fear, there is no way to persuade Hamas to stop its attacks now unless it can be persuaded that a ceasefire is in its own best interests. The crux of the matter is to ensure that the PA government turns on Hamas once it relaunches its resistance.

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