Knesset Member calls for direct talks with Hamas

The Israeli lawmaker questioned Israel’s strategy in dealing with the Gaza-based terrorist organization over the years, noting that it has proven to be ineffective.

By Tobias Siegal, World Israel News

Israel “should negotiate with Hamas directly, not through mediators,” Regional Cooperation Minister Isawi Frej (Meretz) said Tuesday in an interview with 103 FM Radio.

The Israeli lawmaker questioned Israel’s strategy in dealing with the Gaza-based terrorist organization over the years, noting that it has proven to be ineffective.

“This entire ritual of missiles, riots, [incendiary] kites, balloons, wars, killing, the suffering of residents and anxiety – is repeating itself,” he said. “If we don’t find the courage to think outside the box and find new solutions, we will end up going backwards.”

When asked about the viability of holding direct negotiating with a terrorist group, Frej noted that it has been done before. “The PLO was a terrorist organization, [its leader, Yasser] Arafat was an arch-killer. Benjamin [Netanyahu], [Ehud] Barak and [Yitzhak] Rabin all reached agreements with him,” he said.

On the possibility of his left-wing party supporting a military operation in Gaza, Frej did not provide a clear answer. “Meretz wants what’s best for the country,” he said, adding that Israel needs to “relieve the pressure in Gaza. Not with missiles, but with other means. That’s also a course of action,” he argued.

He stressed that his party “trust[s] the IDF, whose job is to protect.”

Discussing Barel Shmueli, the Israeli soldier still fighting for his life after being shot in the head during riots along the Gaza border, Frej wished him a speedy recovery but noted that “every combat soldier needs to know how to defend himself.”

Finally, he did not rule out the possibility of taking part in direct negotiations with Hamas, if those ever take place. “Anything that promotes peace rather than war, I’ll be there,” he concluded.

As a matter of policy, Israel does not negotiate with terrorists. Any form of negotiations or agreements with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are conducted through mediators like Egypt or the United Nations.