Tahdia is a ruse to fool the world
Hamas's latest truce offer reveals reluctance to give Israel real peace, reports Steven Gutkin from Jerusalem
Hamas is once again offering Israel a truce, but the language the Islamic movement has chosen reveals a deep reluctance to talk about any real peace with the Jewish state. Mr Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister, on Wednesday proposed a "tahdia", a loosely defined period of calm that falls short of a formal cease-fire.
Still, this semantic nuance could well determine the success of West Asia peace-making. As long as Israelis and the Islamist terrorists are killing each other in Gaza and southern Israel, a US-sponsored drive to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by year's end stands little chance.
The efforts hit a snag on Wednesday when Israeli undercover forces killed four terrorists in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, including the local commander of Islamic Jihad. Gaza militants have claimed the right to retaliate for Israel's West Bank operations in the past, and Islamic Jihad said it would respond "at a time and place of (our) choosing".
If the raid leads to a fresh barrage of rockets on southern Israel, that could set the truce contacts back to the beginning. Israel is formally rejecting the truce talk, but other signs on the ground indicate that Israel and Hamas are moving closer toward an Egyptian-brokered deal to end weeks of cross-border fighting that has killed dozens of people, nearly all of them Palestinians. In a speech at Gaza City's Islamic University on Wednesday, Mr Haniyeh demanded an end to Israeli military activity in Hamas-ruled Gaza, a lifting of Israeli economic sanctions and the opening of Gaza's borders, which have been sealed since Hamas violently seized control of the area last June.
"We are talking about a mutual comprehensive tahdia, which means that the enemy must fulfill its obligations," Mr Haniyeh said. "The Israelis must stop the aggression... including assassinations and invasions, end the sanctions and open the borders." Palestinian militants have adopted the term tahdia as an alternative to "hudna" -- a legal concept dating to the birth of Islam. It refers to a truce of a fixed duration, usually between Muslims and non-Muslims. Prophet Mohammed first negotiated a hudna with rivals in Mecca in 628.
The concept could allow Islamists to negotiate without losing face. Some Hamas officials proposed a hudna with Israel after their group won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006. But Israel, as it did with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat some 15 years earlier, demanded full recognition as a condition for doing business.
In Hamas' eyes, hudna does imply recognition of the enemy to some degree - which helps explain why the militants have backed away from the term. A tahdia is more open to interpretation, and presumably can be broken off at any time - as happened when Hamas unilaterally declared two of them in 2003 and 2005.
Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that the militants would use any lull to rearm. A formal truce with Hamas is not needed, the officials say, as long as the militants refrain from launching rockets and other violence.
"If Hamas ceases its war against Israel, then there will be quiet," said Mr Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister. It wouldn't be the first time the subtleties of language have complicated the region's politics.
Israel has said it would honour its obligations under various international peace plans not to expand West Bank settlements but, unlike most of the international community, doesn't view Jewish neighbourhoods in disputed east Jerusalem as settlements. Palestinians and Israelis have differed over the meaning of UN Security Council Resolution 242, calling for evacuation of lands captured by Israel in the 1967 war. The French version of the resolution referred to "the territories" while the English version cited mere "territories" - leading to an impassioned dispute lasting decades over whether Israel is obligated to cede everything.
Arafat famously sent Western diplomats racing to their dictionaries when in a 1989 interview with a French TV station he described the PLO charter, which called for the destruction of Israel, as "caduque" - a 17th century French legal term meaning null and void. While the French welcomed his characterisation as a positive gesture, Israel said it fell far short of a formal revocation of the charter, with then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin describing Arafat's statement as "pathetic acrobatics". Only in 1998, in the presence of then US President Bill Clinton, did the PLO's ruling body formally revoke the relevant clauses of the charter.
Despite Israel's insistence on real peace rather than vague truces, there is a growing realisation that the current policy of blockade and military action has failed to weaken Hamas, which has proven its ability to disrupt fledgling peace talks between Israel and the moderate West Bank-based Government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The US, too, now appears to have thrown its support behind a broad deal that would include an end to the fighting and an easing of the international blockade of Gaza. At the centre of the arrangement would be the deployment of officers loyal to Abbas at Gaza's crossings.
Hamas officials said on Wednesday that they accept such a deployment in principle, even though it means giving up some control, and that they have given Egypt names of pro-Abbas officers who would be acceptable to Hamas.
"There are efforts by the Egyptian brothers who are working on this issue. We as Palestinians are waiting for the Israeli answers," Mr Haniyeh said. "The ball is in Israel's court." He also said that "all of the factions are involved", signalling that Hamas has the support of smaller militant groups that have often scuttled cease-fire attempts in the past.
Israeli political analyst Efraim Inbar said the benefit of a tahdia is that "they're no longer firing on us". In the long run, he said "it is problematic to leave a terror group like that in place without taking care of it militarily".
-- Associated Press correspondents Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City and Mark Lavie in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Now we learn an new term - Tahdia. Add that to Hudabaya, Hudna waht a number of weasel words to preserve theri image. Folks there are no modern Islamists all are antedeluvians. They come in Armani suits or that burqa all are same at the core. The core idea is that peace is a temporaray respite to gain final advantage to finish the opponent.
This can be x-posted in islamism thread too for completeness.