Efraim Halevy is no dove.
The bluntly speaking former Mossad chief, a key adviser to former prime minister Ariel Sharon who supported harsh retaliation against Palestinian terror, is a supporter of the Iraq War who issues dark warnings about the dramatic increase in Europe’s Muslim population. So, there were more than a few puzzled looks at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last week when Halevy spoke out about the need to engage Hamas.
Twice he warned his audience that “we’ll be seeing things we have not seen before,” a seeming allusion to potential talks between Israel and Hamas.
Halevy, who was touring the United States to promote his book, “Man in the Shadows: Inside the Middle East Crisis With a Man Who Led the Mossad,” advocated talks with what he described as this the “deathly enemy of Israel” as part of a broader strategy to “sup with the devil” and forge allies within the fundamentalist camp. Having retired in 2003, Halevy now heads Hebrew University’s School for Strategic and Policy Study. He pointedly blasted Israel for insisting that Hamas first recognize the Jewish state as a precondition for any discussion.
“The shoe is on the other foot,” he said. “We should recognize them first while holding them [to] account.”
Halevy stressed that Hamas quickly dissociated itself from Osama bin Laden after the Al Qaeda leader made statements supporting the group in a video aired last week. In an obvious departure from official Israeli rhetoric, Halevy asserted that the two groups were “entirely different” and that Hamas’s focus was merely a national and a territorial one.
“We might see some things that are in the offing,” he said without elaborating. “I think some Hamas leaders are ready to bite the bullet and Israeli officials should just stop making statements.”
He expressed support for Sharon’s vision of establishing provisional borders and reaching a long-term interim agreement instead of pressing for a permanent solution.
Halevy, who did not support the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and has claimed that Israel did not disengage but is still essentially in charge of the area, said that Sharon probably decided to follow his unilateral course when he realized that Israel’s efforts to separate itself from other Middle Eastern issues, most notably the war in Iraq, proved impossible.
“When you realize this, you have to cut your losses, and this is what we did,” Halevy told the audience. “We’ll continue down this path to maintain our existence and our partnership with the U.S. and Europe.”