Salon runs Ali Abunimah, Inside the Mideast prisoner swap, very astute analysis of the various parties' interests and limitations... Note the respect shown to violent resistance, a respect Americans would extend to any other anti-occupation situation in the world except for this one-- and props to Salon for running it.
Israel did not negotiate with Hamas because Hamas is “moderate,” any more than the U.S. has negotiated with the Taliban in Afghanistan because it is “moderate,” or the U.K. negotiated with representatives of the Irish Republican Army because they were “moderate.”
In all those cases, enemies who had previously been declared off limits (“we don’t negotiate with terrorists”) were brought into the fold because they were in a position of strength.
Similarly, the reason Israel has been willing to limit its military assaults on the Gaza Strip recently is in part because Hamas and other Palestinian factions have been able to exercise limited deterrence with their rockets.
Netanyahu will not impose a settlement freeze in response to Abbas’ demands simply because Netanyahu believes in and supports the colonization of the West Bank, and Abbas does not have the power to make him.
Israel only negotiates seriously when it feels it has no other choice and when its adversary has enough power to impose an outcome it cannot prevent by other means.
Does this mean that Hamas and Israel could potentially do a deal over the broader issues? The answer is no, but not because of the conventional wisdom that Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel, espouses violence, and refuses to accept signed agreements.
In fact, Hamas has said repeatedly — including in a New York Times interview with its leader Khaled Meshal — that the movement is willing to accept a Palestinian state in only the West Bank and Gaza Strip, provided all Israeli settlements are removed and the rights of Palestinian refugees are respected.
But while Hamas was strong in the specific context of negotiations over prisoners, the movement by itself or even in combination with other Palestinian factions is not strong enough to compel Israel to meet broader demands.
The power balance remains too lopsided against Palestinians for negotiations to be anything more than what they have been for two decades: a cover for Israel to continue colonization.