Glenn Greenwald, toying with the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, points out that the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is a triumph of diplomacy. It should be something more than that, though: the beginning of a negotiation. Releasing Shalit is a gesture by Hamas that clearly demands an Israeli response–opening the checkpoints into Gaza for construction equipment and materials, so the Gazans can start rebuilding their homes, would be a start.
It seems clear now–as it did to me three weeks ago when I interviewed Khaled Meshaal–that Hamas is ready to negotiate with both Fatah and the Israelis. It isn’t holding many cards. Recognition of Israel’s right to exist is one. Recognition of previous treaties is another. Those will only be ceded when Israel begins to make concessions of its own. If the Netanyahu government actually wants peace–if it actually wants to give up the West Bank in return for a guaranteed future–now’s the time to begin.
The fact that Syria is playing a helpful role in these negotiations also should be noted. Indeed, if Syria is willing to play ball–and Hamas, too–and a full-blown middle east peace process can get started, Iran’s Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime will be even more isolated in the region. These things tend to move slowly–but the only people who don’t want seem to want to talk these days are the Likudnik Israelis, Ahmadineocon Iranians and the U.S. neocons…in other words, the extreme right-wing factions in their respective countries. Strange bedfellows, one might say, except they aren’t.