Hamas has repeatedly refused to re-engage with the Israelis based on the previous understanding.
On Saturday evening, the Israeli War Council held a meeting to discuss the possibility of returning to negotiations that would allow for the release of the rest of its captives held by the Palestinian Resistance in Gaza. Hamas and other Resistance groups hold about over 130 Israeli soldiers, reportedly all detained during the October 7 military operation.
The Israeli government meeting followed another meeting where Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and War Council Minister Benny Gantz discussed, with families of Israeli captives, Tel Aviv’s plans regarding future talks with Hamas.
Following a bloody episode on Friday in which the Israeli military shot at point-blank three of its captive soldiers in Gaza, there is a growing belief in Israel that negotiations are the only way out of this difficult scenario.
But is Hamas ready to return to the Qatari-Egyptian mediated negotiations in Doha?
War Must Stop
Hamas has repeatedly refused to re-engage with the Israelis based on the previous understanding, which governed several prisoner swaps between the Palestinian Resistance and Israel starting on November 24.
On Saturday, Hamas issued a brief statement, in which it reiterated:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, reaffirms its position of not opening any negotiations for the exchange of prisoners unless the aggression against our people completely stops. The movement has communicated this position to all mediators.”
Moreover, in his daily press conference in Beirut, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan has repeated the movement’s position, stating that the group is ready to exchange all of Israel’s military captives for all the Palestinian detainees in Israel, which are now numbered at around 7,000.
But why is Hamas keen on such an exchange?
Hamas understands that the Israeli captives are its strongest card in the war against Israel.
This card is putting direct pressures on both the Israeli military and political institutions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may seem uninterested in ending the war, even if it means the killing of many Israeli hostages. But Netanyahu does not control the political game in Israel anymore. Various public polls show that the majority of Israelis simply do not trust him, and that most of the country wants to ensure the release of the captives.
If Hamas is to release all the captives, whatever pressure that the Israeli army and government feel at the moment will suddenly dissipate and the war on Gaza, as deadly as it has been, would be prolonged in ways that are even more intense.
So for Hamas, the only workable position, then would have to be a major prisoner exchange that would guarantee the release of all Palestinian detainees, in addition to a permanent ceasefire.
This places Netanyahu in a difficult, if not impossible, position. Stopping the war would secure the release of the Israeli captives, but will also end his political career. Prolonging the war will buy him time but will not change the inevitable, while still risking the lives of Israeli soldiers who are currently in the hands of the Resistance.
Based on statements by the Hamas movement, however, there seems to be no interest in revisiting its repeatedly declared position: all for all, or nothing at all.
(The Palestine Chronicle)
Disclaimer: All for All, or Nothing: Hamas’ Vision to Ending the War - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view