Towards a Ceasefire with Hamas?

Negotiations with Hamas over a ceasefire raise several dilemmas for Israel. While it would end the Kassam rockets, it would also lead to the strengthening of Hamas and undermine the status of Abu Mazen.
According to several reports, the deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made an approach to Israel through third parties with the aim of reaching a Hudna (ceasefire). Reports also stated that Minister Shaul Mofaz said he does not rule out indirect negotiations with Hamas in order to reach a ceasefire in the Strip.

Hamas control in Gaza provides a complex challenge to Israel. Israel understands that there is no real alternative to the organization and is unable to topple it. However, Israel has not yet formulated clear policies towards the Hamas government in Gaza, despite the fact its medium and short term interests are known: stopping the Kassam rockets, preventing weapons smuggling into Gaza, freeing of Gilad Shalit, containing Hamas' capacity to wreck the political proves and preventing its takeover of the West Bank.

Negotiations with Hamas over a ceasefire raise several dilemmas for Israel.

A ceasefire would end the Kassam rockets but would also lead to the strengthening of Hamas. Such a scenario would allow the movement to smuggle even more weapons into the Strip and organize itself towards the next round of fighting.

Israel, with the support of the US and the international community, seeks to strengthen Abu Mazen's status through the political process. As the President of the PA and Chairman of the PLO, Abu Mazen claims that he is the sole legitimate Palestinian representative who can negotiate with Israel. Any political step Israel takes with Hamas - even a ceasefire - is likely to strengthen Hamas and weaken Abu Mazen.

Sources

Shachar, GaLatz, 12/19/07; full article (Heb).

Reuters, 12/19/07; full article.