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An imperfect peace


The Middle East could be headed for more turmoil. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended recent peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders over the possibility of Hamas being part of a unified government

Israel and the United States view Hamas as a terrorist organization.

But the Palestinian political parties — Fatah and Hamas — have reconciled, and are working on forming a unified government anyway. Netanyahu says he supports the two-state solution that has Israel and an independent Palestine co-existing peacefully, but he remains opposed to negotiating with Hamas.

But not everyone agrees with Netanyahu's hardline approach; they say rejecting Hamas is no longer feasible. And observers such as Shlomi Eldar, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., view the failure of the negotiations as an opportunity to forge a new way forward.

In a recent phone interview, Eldar said the time has come for Israel and the US to accept that giving the Palestinians an ultimatum — it's either Hamas or us — won't work.

Eldar is a veteran Israeli journalist and author of several books on Israeli and Palestinian relations. His documentary film, "Precious Life," was recognized by the Israeli Film Academy as the best documentary film of 2010.

Eldar will be in Rochester on Thursday, May 8, to give a talk, "Israelis and the Neighbors: Special Moments Captured in Words and Videos." The event is being presented by J Street Rochester at Temple B'rith Kodesh, 2131 Elmwood Avenue, at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Eldar said that Hamas has "changed its spots" from a terrorist group to a political party that now has to be responsible for improving the lives of everyday Palestinians, including the residents of the Gaza Strip. And he warned that a weaker Hamas opens the door to far more radical Islamic extremists.

"Hamas is part of Palestinian society," Eldar said. "They have support of more than 20 to 25 percent of the people, and of course they were elected in 2006 in a democratic election. We can't destroy them, and Hamas will not disappear because we want it."

Even though Hamas is unlikely to formally recognize Israel, its leaders also view Israel as a fait accompli, Eldar said. That may be as good of a starting point for new negotiations as we can expect, he said.

"If the Israeli government accepted the new Palestinian government, it's a step," Eldar said.