Unlike any other army I know of, IDF soldiers carry around and even go home with their guns. I don’t know the precise reason for this: some say it’s meant to create an additional unofficial security force in the streets; others claim that it makes soldiers take better care of their guns; I guess it also simplifies things logistically. The only problem is with the clip: You don’t want everyone carrying around loaded guns, so where exactly should a soldier keep the clip?
To solve this issue, all soldiers during the late 80s and early 90s were issued a small, strange-looking, plastic box. Every soldier was supposed to put the clip in the box, and than attach the box to his belt or put it in his pocket. The box was soon nicknamed Mofazit, after the senior officer who invented them, one Shaul Mofaz. Basically, it was the most useless thing in the world. The Mofazit was too big and uncomfortable, and it took too much time to take the clip out – so soldiers just went on placing the clips in their pockets (I’ve never seen anyone actually use the Mofazit), and the army went on issuing the plastic boxes, until one day somebody put an end to the whole business.
Shaul Mofaz was appointed chief of staff mainly to prevent Mathan Vilnaiy from getting the job; later on he zigzagged between Likud and Kadima, and didn’t leave much of an impression in both parties. His last term in the government, as Minister of Transportation, was marked by professional disasters and appointments of friends and political allies to senior positions. As a person who made a name for himself for his political ambition – and not much more – it was no surprise that since the general elections Mofaz has been doing his best to push Kadima into Netanyahu’ government, so he can get himself another cabinet post. This hurt his ratings with the public even further. So it is easy to figure out why when Mofaz said he was going to announce his new diplomatic plan for an agreement with the Palestinians, most people didn’t exactly hold their breath.
But Mofaz did come up with something new: breaking one of Israel’s Taboo’s, he suggests no less than talking to Hamas:
“At the moment that Hamas sit down at the negotiating table, assuming that Hamas are elected and want to talk, they accept the Quartet’s guidelines and are no longer a terrorist organization.”
To understand the context of this idea, it’s enough to remember that just recently Netanyahu (wrongly) accused Sweden of contacts with Hamas.
Mofaz went on to suggesting to recognize a Palestinian state on 60 per cent of the territories (I couldn’t understand if this figure includes Gaza or not), and criticized Netanyahu for “wasting time” by not starting a meaningful dialogue with the Palestinians or presenting his own diplomatic initiative. But naturally, what made all the headlines is his statement on Hamas.
Mofaz is right. Without acknowledging the Hamas’ position and getting the organization into the diplomatic game, there will be no agreement. It can be done through a united Palestinian government or through talks – direct or indirect – between Israel and Hamas itself, but the point is in must be done.
All those praising operation Cast Lead don’t like to be reminded of another result the Israeli offensive had – it proved to the whole world that the Hamas is here to stay. Hamas was strong enough to survive the Israeli blow and the long siege on Gaza, and now, with the Goldstone report and the news of a prisoner exchange deal coming soon, it’s about to win some big points. If Israel and the PLO will try to reach some deal without the Hamas, a few rockets or one suicide attack will be the response, and it’s bound to kill any initiative. The simple reality is this: the Hamas might not run things on the Palestinian side, but it does hold a veto power over the process, and left out, it will not hesitate to use it. Many peace process veterans have reached this conclusion lately.
Taking to Hamas won’t be easy. The organization’s spokesperson already issued today a response that rejects talking to Israel, but this should be seen mainly as a refusal to hand Mofaz easy political currency in the Israeli internal game. That’s why it is interesting to see a conservative politician like Mofaz, who sees himself as PM material, acknowledges reality this way. The future will tell if this statement is for real, or whether Mofaz has just handed us again an empty plastic box.