Photo Credit: Chenspec/Wikimedia
A display in Hatofim Square, near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, in January 2024
A display in Hatofim Square, near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, in January 2024 (Chenspec/Wikimedia Commons).

News that mediators in the negotiation between Israel and Hamas are pushing for a “short-term pause in fighting for a few days to build trust between the sides” highlighted the utter absurdity of the so-called negotiation.

Who is supposed to learn to trust whom? Is Israel expected to trust the murderers who committed the horrific acts of October 7 and who still hold hostages, including children, despite an order by the International Court of Justice issued weeks ago to release them immediately and unconditionally? Or is Hamas expected to trust that Israel will no longer try to destroy them, which Israel needs to do to prevent more attacks?


The attempt to build trust between the two parties is of course ridiculous but probably not the most absurd thing in the ongoing negotiation, starting with the very negotiation itself.

Any negotiation with terrorists is highly problematic, which is why many countries have a policy to never do it (although they sometimes do it anyway), and this one is no less problematic.

When Hamas demands a “permanent ceasefire”, it is very clear that it doesn’t mean a permanent ceasefire but a temporary ceasefire until it is able to regroup and attack Israel again. Yet Hamas’ demand for a “permanent ceasefire” is presented by the media as if it was a real demand.

Yet, Israel has no choice but to go along with this absurd negotiation because if Hamas becomes convinced that the hostages can no longer be used as a bargaining chip, they will no longer have any incentive to keep the hostages alive. So, the charade continues.

The reality is that this is not a negotiation. It is blackmail by a criminal organization being conducted with the help of mediators, including Qatar, Egypt, France, and the United States. The media should report it as such, just as they should always remind readers and listeners that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but many news outlets refuse to do that.

Employers and unions negotiate employment agreements with each other. Countries negotiate trade agreements with each other. What the media calls a negotiation between Israel and Hamas is actually blackmail.

In this year’s state of the union address, President Joe Biden said, “To the leadership of Israel, I say this: humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip”. I don’t know if Biden believes that this is what Israel is doing or if his comment is a desperate and probably hopeless attempt to appeal to anti-Israel voters. Regardless, however, here we have Israel’s only real ally reprimanding it about its negotiation tactics, but on the other side, no one is demanding that Hamas not use hostages as bargaining chips, which is of course both illegal and immoral.

Not only are Hamas’ allies not demanding that Hamas not use hostages as bargaining chips, but in another absurd moment, Qatar even suggested the opposite: that Israel should make concessions (a ceasefire) in return for nothing, not even the release of any hostages.Another absurd component of the negotiation is that Israel is expected to release Palestinian criminals, supposedly in exchange for the hostages, as if criminals legitimately incarcerated because they committed crimes are equivalent to hostages, including little children, who were illegally kidnapped.

But regardless of how many absurd concessions Israel agrees to make, it is still unclear whether Hamas will free the remaining hostages through negotiation unless Israel agrees to make the ultimate concession, which is to end the war and give up on destroying Hamas. In fact, Hamas repeatedly says that they will not do that. If we believe Hamas, it means that the only way that all the remaining hostages can be freed is by Israel taking over the remaining Hamas stronghold in Gaza, which is Rafah.

The Rafah battle, however, has not even started, there is no clear indication of when it will start, and there is widespread international opposition to it. Even the US, Israel’s strongest and practically only ally, has misgivings about the Rafah operation, with the Biden administration even considering preventing Israel from using US weapons in Rafah.

The only fair outcome – and perhaps the only possible outcome – to the ongoing blackmail being conducted by the Hamas criminal organization is for Hamas to be forced to release the hostages. But for that to happen while at least some hostages are still alive, Israel must finish the job of eliminating Hamas from Gaza, and it must do it soon. Israel’s allies, and in fact any moral person on the planet, should be supporting Israel in that goal rather than putting obstacles in its path.

We are not doing nearly enough.

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Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected.