Ex-Shin Bet head: Hamas doesn‘t want to fight Israel but must lower demands

Despite the Gaza border crisis, Hamas has no interest in fighting Israel and wants a state like other nations, but needs to lower its demands to get there, former Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen told Army Radio on Thursday.

Hamas is asking itself, “How can it get Israel to change its blockade policy? It wants to be a state like any other state… It has no interest in fighting Israel. It knows it cannot conquer us,” but that its terms for moving on with Israel are unrealistic, he said.

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The openness to viewing Hamas as theoretically no longer wanting to fight Israel was surprising coming from Cohen, who has made few public appearances to date and is usually viewed as hawkish on security issues.

Cohen said that and feels like it is out of military options, all of which Israel has blocked.

At the same time, he said, Hamas is frustrated with the desperate economic situation and knows its stability is potentially in jeopardy until it provides jobs and some normalcy to its people.

He said Israel “has been the central actor” to facilitate rehabilitating Gaza, but that the ongoing conflict has limited that rehabilitation.

However, the former Shin Bet chief said, when Hamas sends Israel messages about a long-term truce, it demands immediate sea ports and airports as well as complete open access to Israel, which are completely unrealistic as long as the group is armed and committed to Israel’s destruction.

He explained that even as the group is at such a weak point, any dialogue through third parties has resulted in Hamas remaining unwilling to be more humane about releasing Israeli captives and captured Israeli bodies or about what it can realistically get in the absence of real peace.

While not disqualifying the possibility of direct talks with Hamas, he was very hesitant about the idea, and seemed to place more focus on suggesting practical ways to improve the situation.

Cohen did say that there is already a cease fire of sorts with no major military operations since the summer 2014 Gaza War. He said that if Hamas “created a better atmosphere,” Israel could consider allowing “shuttles of Gazans straight to Jordan… through Israel” without having to go through the West Bank.

He added that this had even been done on a limited basis in the past, but could be broadened substantially.

Moreover, he said Israel should avoid annexation or any other acts that would prejudice future talks or create more tension.

Regarding the , he said that the IDF had no choice but to use the tactics it used to defend the border, while recognizing “having so many dead is a problem.”