Are Ceasefire Negotiators Talking to the Right People?

Since Sunday, American, Qatari, Egyptian, and Israeli diplomats have been engaged in ceasefire negotiations in Cairo. Much is opaque about these talks, including whether Arab mediators are in contact with the representatives of the Hamas government in Gaza, led by Yahya Sinwar and his brother Mohammad, or of the terrorist group’s Qatar-based nominal chief Ismail Haniyeh. Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

Prior to the war, relations between the Sinwar brothers and the Hamas leadership abroad were said to be tense. The Sinwar brothers, with the help of the Hamas military commanders Mohammed Deif and Marwan Issa [killed by the IDF last month], acted as if they were a separate group from Hamas, often refusing to accept dictates from Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials in Qatar and Lebanon.

In the aftermath of the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, the disconnect between the Sinwar brothers and the Hamas leadership abroad has only deepened. It’s not clear how messages are being directly communicated, if at all, between the Hamas leaders abroad, who are negotiating with the Egyptians and Qataris, and the incommunicado Gaza-based Hamas leaders.

According to an Arab diplomatic source, Yahya Sinwar recently sent an urgent message from his hideout to the Egyptians to the effect that any deal brokered by Haniyeh would be turned down by the Gaza-based leadership and Hamas’ military wing. As a result, Haniyeh was forced to call off a planned visit to the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

As far as the Sinwar brothers are concerned, the only thing that matters now is their personal survival and retaining control of the Gaza Strip. . . . Given the mistrust (and disconnect) between the Gaza-based Hamas leadership and the terror group’s leaders abroad, one can only wonder whether the Qataris and Egyptians are wasting their time negotiating with representatives who do not represent the Sinwar brothers.

Abu Toameh’s question raises another one: if Haniyeh and his colleagues aren’t playing a useful role in the negotiations, why are they allowed to live luxuriously in Doha rather than being delivered into American or Israeli custody? Conversely, if Haniyeh does have leverage over Sinwar, why aren’t U.S. and Qatari officials threatening him with serious repercussions if Hamas doesn’t produce the hostages forthwith? And if the answer to either question is that Qatar wants to protect Hamas’s leaders, why does it remain a U.S. ally?

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Qatar, U.S.-Israel relationship


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict