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Message to Hamas: You Want a 'Hudna,' You Can Have One!

November 9, 2006 By:
Elliot Jager
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On those mornings when I take a bus from my Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot to my office on the other side of town, I always scan fellow passengers, checking for would-be suicide bombers. Several years ago, a colleague found himself sharing a ride with a randy "martyr" on his way to collect 70 virgins.

Perhaps that's why I found myself receptive to an opinion piece in The New York Times calling for a hudna. The piece had been written by Ahmed Yousef, "a senior adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh." Yousef appears to be a Hamas liaison to the foreign press. The Christian Science Monitor calls him a "moderate."

And his piece is part of a larger charm offensive. He came to London last month pushing the hudna, telling the Guardian: "It can become a substitute for recognition of Israel. Debate about a political nation's right to exist seems infantile. Israel is a state now, it is part of the United Nations, it is de facto there, and we deal with it every day."

In his writing, Yousef pledged that "when Hamas gives its word to an international agreement, it does so in the name of God, and will therefore keep it. This offer of hudna is no ruse -- as some assert -- to strengthen our military machine, to buy time to organize better or to consolidate our hold on the Palestinian Authority.

"We Palestinians are prepared to enter into a hudna to bring about an immediate end to the occupation and to initiate a period of peaceful co-existence during which both sides would refrain from any form of military aggression or provocation.

"During this period of calm and negotiations, we can address the important issues like the right of return and the release of prisoners. The next generation of Palestinians and Israelis will have to decide whether or not to renew the hudna and the search for a negotiated peace."

My first inclination -- mindful of the politics of the bazaar -- is to say: You want a hudna, you got a hudna!

Now, let's talk details.

Israel's Foreign Ministry is hung up with getting Hamas to unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and embrace commitments the Palestinian Arabs made under the Oslo accords. I'm not much bothered about such things. After all, Yasser Arafat demonstrated that one can "renounce" terror while still engaging in it; "recognize" Israel's right to exist while trying to bomb us to smithereens; and sit for photo-ops with visiting peace delegations while brainwashing Palestinian children to hate Jews.

We ought to abandon impotent and disingenuous partners, and do business with people who can deliver.

Israel should respond by offering the Palestinian Arabs a Jewish hudna: 10 years of tranquility for the Arabs of Gaza, Judea and Samaria. If they stop all violence from the Jordan to the Mediterranean -- no drive-by shootings, no rock-throwing, no firebombs, no bus or cafe bombings from any Palestinian source -- Israel will offer peace and quiet.

If the other side can live without smuggling weapons and without training its young people for the next round of warfare, if it can retool its schools to teach tolerance instead of hatred, we should meet them halfway.

Of course, we can't withdraw to the suicidal armistice lines of 1949 (which some call the 1967 borders), but we can commit ourselves to genuinely freezing the expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria; we can disassemble outposts not approved by the government; and we can make it as easy to travel from Ramallah to Gaza as it is to journey from Tzfat to Eilat.

Naturally, we will never agree to the "right of return" of the refugees (and their descendants) who left this land generations ago, but we can -- with European and American assistance -- help those in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the territories demolish refugee camps and build permanent housing; and we can facilitate the building of industries in Palestinian centers.

And, assuming the Palestinians do deliver, devoting themselves for the next 10 years to rebuilding their morally, politically and economically devastated society, relearning humane values and rediscovering a spiritualism that's not fixated on blood, I predict they will find most Israelis willing to compromise -- even to the point of helping create a Palestinian Arab state.

So, were I advising our premier, I'd urge him to invite Haniyeh to Jerusalem and start the haggling.

Elliot Jager is editorial-features editor of The Jerusalem Post.

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