CIA chief William Burns has been in Doha, Qatar, for talks with the emirate, which represents the Hamas terrorist organization in international diplomacy. David Barnea, head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, has been there with him for talks this week.
There is little chance that these high-level spy chiefs would be in Qatar simply to negotiate about hostages, though that may be part of the talks. Rather, it is likely that Burns is looking for a longer-term solution that would end the war without losing the war.
A simple ceasefire is out of the question. Ending the fighting now — or prolonging it with endless promises of hostage releases by Hamas — would allow the terror group to survive, continuing a threat to Israel from Gaza and giving Hamas a massive victory.
But there is another option: a ceasefire that involves Hamas’s complete departure from Gaza. That is the solution that helped to end the First Lebanon War in 1982, when the entire Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) left Lebanon for Tunisia.
That war began in similar circumstances to the current one. For years, PLO guerillas had launched raids into Israel, and had shelled Israeli communities with Soviet-made Katyusha rockets. There was no Iron Dome then; civilians were in constant danger.
Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982, rapidly moving into Beirut (and becoming bogged down in the pre-existing rivalries between factions in Lebanon that had already been fighting for many years).
And then, as the Israeli news website i24 recently recalled:
An agreement was finally reached on August 18, under which French troops would arrive in Beirut on August 21. They would be joined by US and Italian forces.
Their mission – to ensure the PLO leaves Beirut. The evacuation got underway on August 21, when several hundred PLO fighters boarded a ship for Cyprus.
In the following days, the evacuation picked up pace, and on August 30, it was the turn of PLO chieftain Yasser Arafat, wearing olive-green military fatigues and with his trade-mark black-and white checked keffiyeh headdress, to board a ship taking him from the city where the PLO had had its headquarters.
Some eight and a half thousand PLO members were sent to Tunisia. Another two and a half thousand ended up in other Arab states.
It is possible that Burns is pushing Qatar to negotiate a similar agreement to evacuate Hamas from Gaza. A major difficulty is that no Arab state has agreed to take Palestinian civilian refugees, much less hardened, radical Islamic Palestinian terrorists.
Hamas would also be unlikely to agree — at least until Israel had destroyed more of its military capability. That moment may be coming, as Israel renews its military effort after a “pause” for the release of hostages ends. Until then, there is no likely diplomatic solution.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.