An exchange deal in which Israel releases more than a thousand detainees and receives Gilad Shalit in return raises many doubts and question marks. Only in a few years will we know if the story ended with a soul being saved in Israel or if one life saving cost the lives of many others. But beyond what will become clear in the future (and perhaps even then there will be controversy), some things can be learned from the deal itself.
The information in the Israeli and Palestinian press shows a negotiation process that has known ups and downs. Initially, Hamas demanded the release of a large group of key terrorists, who are perceived as leaders of great symbolic value on the Palestinian street, while Israel refused. The breakthrough in negotiations occurred when both sides were willing to compromise with respect to the same group. Netanyahu agreed to give up and release prisoners who took part in difficult events responsible for the deaths of many Israelis, while Jabari, the leader of Hamas' military wing, and Mashaal, the political leader, agreed to remove some of the most important names for Hamas and Palestinians in general. This concession did not pass quietly, neither among Israelis nor among Palestinians.
Precisely because of the difficulty of giving up, it is worth considering this step. Hamas' willingness to give up some of its demands shows its priorities and its ability to read political reality. Hamas has been aware that in recent months Abu Mazen has taken over the Palestinian political agenda through his political moves. In light of this development, Hamas' decision shows that it is attentive to the feelings of the Palestinian public and is willing to make compromises in order to remain relevant and gain its support. In other words, Hamas is not an organization detached from reality. He strives to lead the Palestinians, and he is willing to change his positions when a large gap is created between his ideology and the expectations of the Palestinian people.
At the same time, Hamas' situation has deteriorated due to the crisis in Syria. It is clear that partnering with Alawite leadership, which oppresses the Sunni population, will cost Hamas dearly at one time or another. The danger of an alliance with Damascus is growing, and Hamas is looking for ways to break free from this burden. Egypt is the convenient and natural address right now, especially in light of the possibility that in the future the Muslim Brotherhood will be partners in government. Hamas therefore had an interest in allowing Egypt to mediate in such a deal, since, a political achievement given to Egypt on a platter of money would facilitate future cooperation.
The deal between Israel and Hamas shows that it is not just Netanyahu who is pragmatic. Not only is he able to back down from decisive statements against deals with the bitter ones of our enemies. Both Hamas, and even the leaders of the military wing, who have often been the militant marker in their attitudes toward Israel, are capable of taking pragmatic steps when they believe such measures will serve the interests of Hamas or the Palestinians.
If so, there is someone to talk to. Although Hamas did not soften its positions, its conduct in the Gilad Shalit affair indicates that when the same interest is created between it and Israel, the organization is able to change positions and compromise. Moreover, Hamas has set itself the goal of leading the Palestinians. If he feels that this goal is moving away, he is willing to change positions. In other words, under the right circumstances Hamas is stressed and open to negotiations.
And now we should look at ourselves. If we are willing to risk so much and release terrorists who strengthen the terrorist infrastructure to free one Israeli soldier, why not take the risk to advance the peace process that will save many lives and change the fate of the State of Israel? If we are willing to close deals with Hamas, why not give in and give up slogans that we have only invented in recent years, such as the demand that the Palestinians recognize that the State of Israel is the State of the Jews?
Netanyahu understands that historic deals are being made with our greatest enemies, and he has proven that he is capable of giving them painful concessions. He probably understands that peace is in Israel's strategic interest. If we connect the two together and examine them after the Shalit deal, the question arises: is it not time to talk to Hamas and give up painful concessions in the peace process as we did in the Shalit deal?