Hamas' rejection of Israel's response on the proposed prisoner exchange deal was predictable and in complete contrast to the false information reported by the Arab media. Hamas has no interest in a prisoner swap – the negotiations only enhance the psychological warfare waged against the Israeli public and empower it.
It is a free gift by the Israeli government, amplified by Israeli media – only last week we reported that the deal was imminent – but nothing has been finalized.
So how can we free Gilad Shalit at this point? By using our minds and the dilemmas tactic. We haven’t created any dilemmas for the enemy, only for ourselves. Don't create problems – they will only be solved. Create dilemmas. Our enemy is far more sophisticated and versed in the art of negotiation than us. We have to create a situation in which every option before them is an evil, and they will have to choose the lesser one. In the meantime, it is the enemy that has created dilemmas for us.
At the end of this round of negotiations, for instance, with Israel elasticizing its stand so profoundly (Israel is willing to release almost all "heavy" prisoners, just not to their homes), we should have openly announced, in a special address, who the prisoners demanded by Hamas are, and that this is Israel's final say in the negotiations. Announce that from now on, if Hamas refuses the Israeli offer, we're going back to square one – i.e. one prisoner for another.
The first dilemma it would have created for Hamas is revealing the names of the prisoners they asked to be released – and worse for them – who they didn’t. That alone will create chaos between Hamas and the families and the Palestinian public. Let them reap what they sow.
The second dilemma: Since Hamas isn’t interested in a deal but in perpetual negotiations, it would be faced with the terrible dilemma of cutting the branch on which it sits. The prisoners' families will apply intense pressure on it to finalize the deal, and the Palestinian may view it as a failure – the loser that couldn’t get anything. Hamas may singlehandedly undo all of its achievements.
Rules of play
True, this kind of Israeli stance takes courage and determination – which I'm not sure our leaders, or our public, have – but this is the way to negotiate in the Middle East. Force a dilemma on the other side, a sensation that they might get less tomorrow than they will today. Such a dilemma will force the enemy to accept the terms.
But what do we do? We signal the enemy that there's no problem, that we will continue with the negotiations forever. There's nothing for you to gamble on, we tell them, because every round of talks guarantees another Israeli concession.
An indeed, in its response, Hamas spoke of the "current" Israeli stand, knowing it wasn’t the final one. The Israeli emissary will continue negotiating, especially since Hamas wants to drag these talks for many months to come. It only profits from it, gaining legitimacy, international recognitions and a sense of achievement and empowerment. Why should we give it all that for free?
The prisoner exchange negotiations bear a regional effect far greater than the release itself and we must understand that and act accordingly. Using our minds and applying the rules of the Middle East.