Hamas x Israel The fight for another survival

Hamas x Israel: The fight for another “survival”

Both sides accuse each other of trying to prevent an agreement. It is difficult to reconstruct exactly what goes on behind the scenes during negotiations, and what becomes public always has a “spin” – real or invented details are leaked to indirectly influence negotiations.

The negotiations are not only complicated in terms of content, but also in terms of communication technology: Israel and Hamas do not speak directly to each other. As a general rule, negotiations are carried out first with Israel and then with Egypt and Qatar, which have greater influence over Hamas, negotiate with the terrorist organization on this basis. Only if there is some prospect of agreement will both parties send a negotiating team to Cairo or Doha. During the first hostage agreement, delegations from both warring parties were in Doha at the same time. This is not the case in Cairo.

Is Ramadan no longer a factor?

Time is of the essence: not only for the sake of the lives of the Israeli hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, but also because the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan begins on Sunday, during which the conflict in the Middle East has repeatedly escalated dangerously for many years . Unlike the first hostage agreement – when Hamas agreed quickly because it wanted to get rid of the children among the hostages and needed time to reorganize as much as possible – this time Hamas is apparently in no rush. There is practically no consideration for the civilian population, although the requirement to fast between sunrise and sunset could further worsen the dramatic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. On the contrary: the immense suffering of Gaza residents and the growing international pressure on Israel are serving as Hamas's trump card in the negotiations.

People walk past destroyed buildings near Jabalia

Portal/Mahmoud Issa People in the practically destroyed city of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza

And there is speculation in Israel that Hamas sees the continuation of the war during Ramadan as an opportunity to spark an uprising in the Israeli-occupied areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank – and perhaps even among Israeli Arabs. This could happen especially if access to the Temple Mount is severely restricted to Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the occupied territories, as demanded by right-wing extremist Interior Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Hamas's overall objective at this time is clear: to do everything possible to ensure that the terrorist organization remains politically, administratively and militarily incapable of action. So she is fighting for her own political survival. Israeli hostages are by far the most important bargaining chip here.

Netanyahu emerges as a strong man

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to fight for political survival after the state's failure in the Hamas attack on October 7, even if he is now back in command more firmly than immediately afterwards. The longer the war lasts, the better for Netanyahu, as he postpones the political reckoning. For Netanyahu, destroying Hamas is a priority, especially for his right-wing coalition partners and right-wing extremists.

Netanyahu has long resumed one of his favorite roles, that of a negotiator with international experience, who is supposedly the only one who can resist US pressure. Many relatives accuse Netanyahu of actually handing over the hostages. The fact is that the security cabinet is divided on this issue.

Protesters in Tel Aviv demand US support for a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas

Portal/Carlos Garcia Rawlins Relatives of the hostages ask US President Biden for help

Israel as an “open book” for Hamas

Former generals Benni Ganz and Gadi Eisenkot, who joined the cabinet from the opposition after the Hamas attack, are pushing harder for a hostage deal and are prepared to make more concessions. But they also reject family members' demands for a hostage agreement at any price. Since this would become the basis for future negotiations in the event of new kidnappings and wars.

Internal divisions and internal political chaos – temporarily overshadowed by the tragedy of the Hamas attack, but now actually exacerbating it – also mean that many strategically important considerations often occur publicly rather than behind the scenes. This makes Israel easier to read for Hamas than ever before.

Impossible conditions

Both sides have set conditions that are unacceptable to the other side: Netanyahu demanded in advance a list of hostages who would be released – in fact, one of the last steps after there had already been an agreement in principle. Hamas demands the right of the population – and therefore Hamas – to return to northern Gaza.

From his perspective, both sides also have opportunities for escalation: Hamas could publish videos of hostages; The suffering of the people of Gaza also constantly increases pressure on Israel. Israel, in turn, could attack Rafah in particular. However, the completed military plans have not yet received the green light from the government.

Limiting factors for the US

From the current perspective, only significantly greater pressure from the US – on Israel, as well as on the mediators Qatar and Egypt, which have strong “levers” against Hamas (money, political immunity or geographic connection with the world) – could do so. move things forward. lead to rigid negotiation fronts. US President Joe Biden maintains his plan to use the Hamas attack and the war in Gaza as an opportunity to reorganize the Middle East.

For this geostrategic alliance to neutralize Iran, which will supposedly extend from Egypt, through Israel, to Saudi Arabia, Biden depends on Cairo and Doha. This, in turn, means that he cannot threaten both countries with the withdrawal of financial or military aid, but must treat them as partners and can only exert pressure in diplomatic doses.

Internal political traps for Biden

Biden has already increased pressure on Israel, specifically Netanyahu, to several levels. On Monday, Ganz was received in Washington, but Netanyahu was not. If there is criticism of insufficient US pressure, it is often not taken into account that Israel has been by far the US's most important regional partner for decades – with correspondingly close economic, political and military ties.

At the same time, concluding a ceasefire and hostage agreement is increasingly becoming a matter of survival for Biden himself in terms of domestic politics: given the deep divisions in the US democratic electorate over the issue of the Middle East, he must try the almost impossible and find a middle ground to improve his own chances of re-election. November must not be put in danger.