Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must now put Israel’s long-term, strategic self-interest ahead of short-term, tactical military gains. It is time for the Israeli government to talk to the Hamas political leadership in Gaza. Israel’s refusal to engage with President Mahmoud Abbas’s new unity government, because it includes Hamas, must be reversed.
In 2008, the former Israeli intelligence chief Efraim Halevy called for engagement with Hamas, recognising that, in spite of heavy losses, it would not be cowed into submission. Three military operations later, the case for direct talks is all the more pressing. As Israel’s military might is brutally confirmed, the need for a new political approach is urgent.
Hamas is vulnerable and broke. Until forming the unity government with Fatah a few months ago, it could not pay the salaries of doctors and teachers, and faced growing discontent from ordinary Gazans. Hamas is isolated in the Arab world, and Israel cannot destroy militant Palestinian opposition – that much we have seen – but it does now have an opportunity to drive a wedge between Hamas’s political and military wings. An unexpected act of political magnanimity, rather than sporadic military reprisal, would also garner Israel international support.As a Guardian news report points out, Nick's remarks represent a widening split with David Cameron, who has limited his response to calling for an immediate ceasefire.
But voices on the Conservative back benches are beginning to call for talks too, and the Financial Times reports that British public opinion is shifting away for support for Israel.
It quotes an unnamed minister as saying:
"Many of us have had pro-Palestinian demonstrations in our constituencies over the past few weeks. We should not ignore public opinion."