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How Realistic Are Hamas' Cease-Fire Terms?

Amid the escalating violence, Hamas has reportedly set 10 conditions for a truce with Israel.
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TEL AVIV, Israel — Amid the escalating violence, Hamas has reportedly set 10 conditions for a cease-fire with Israel. The list was disclosed Wednesday by Israel's Maa’riv newspaper. Citing Palestinian sources, Maariv said Hamas handed the list to Egyptian mediators, and offered in return a ten-year truce.

Nobody else has confirmed such a move. But the demands on the list of ten have surfaced in recent days, voiced by Hamas political leader in Gaza, Ismael Haniyeh, by its political leader outside Gaza, Khaled Meshaal, and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman, Abu Obeida.

But how realistic are they? Could, or would Israel agree to them? Here's the best analysis, based on the feedback of Michael Herzog, a retired Israeli army general and former peace negotiator.

1. Removing Israeli tanks from the Gaza border to a distance that will allow Palestinian farmers to work their lands near the border freely.

Israel’s army would not agree. When Palestinian farmers worked right up to the border fence, gunmen disguised as farmers planted landmines, fired at Israeli patrols and dug tunnels into Israel. Israel insists on a buffer zone inside Palestinian territory of 100-300 yards.

2. Releasing all the prisoners that were arrested following the killing of the three teenage settlers.

The killers of the three boys cannot be released, nor can the kidnappers of [Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit who held him prisoner for five years, after they violated the terms of their early release. Hamas members arrested for political reasons on the West Bank could be freed.

3. Removing the siege from Gaza and opening the crossings for goods and for people.This is fine as part of a cease-fire package as long as there is effective monitoring so that no weapons, especially rockets, could be smuggled in. It’s already open for occasional humanitarian relief from Israel but Israel would not open the borders for much more.

4. Opening a sea port and an international airport that will be under UN inspectors.Same as above. With real muscle to stop weapons smuggling, and as part of an agreement with a Palestinian state, this is possible. But not now. It would be very easy to smuggle weapons past UN inspectors.

5. Expanding fishing zone for 10 kilometers from the shore.

In the past the fishing range has varied from 3 - 12 kilometers and this is possible as part of an agreement but again, with proper procedures to stop any weapons smuggling.

6. Turning the Rafah crossing into an international crossing under the inspection of the UN and ally Arab countries.A strong No from Israel. The only control Israel would trust would be officers from the Palestinian Authority. It’s all about Who can stop Hamas from smuggling weapons.

7. Halting fire while the Palestinian factions commit to a cease-fire for 10 years based on having International inspectors on the border with Gaza.This could only happen if Gaza is demilitarized. Israel’s fear is that Hamas would secretly rearm under the noses of international inspectors, whose presence would then tie Israel’s hands if Israel ever wanted to respond to fire from Gaza.

8. Israel should ease the access to and give permits to worshippers from Gaza strip to Al-Aqsa mosque.This has nothing to do with the Gaza conflict, and would merely be a reward for Hamas’ violence, handing it a big propaganda victory among Palestinians.

9. Israel cannot get involved in the internal Palestinian political issues and the political reconciliation process and what follows of elections for presidency and parliament.Israel’s vital security interests are so closely allied to events in the West Bank and Gaza that it must always remain involved. But what happens is mostly secret and will stay that way.

10. Reestablishing the industrial zones and improving the development in the Gaza Strip.Yes to this, but the factories must not be used to manufacture weapons. Anything that bolsters the economic and humanitarian development of Gaza would be supported, but Israel will be unmoved when it comes to security issues.

Overall, it seems clear that Hamas knows that many of these conditions could never be met. Israel would never allow Hamas to be rewarded for the violence of the past eight days.

On the other hand many of the conditions have been agreed to previously by Israel, in the context of earlier agreements. For instance, after Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 it agreed to give the Palestinians control of the borders, permitted imports and exports and agreed to a Palestinian seaport and airport. Israel may not want to give "rewards" to the Palestinians after the latest violence, but it may well be the price of a truce.