the Hamas leadership, both in Gaza and Damascus, has been sending positive signals for some time. The group has stopped firing rockets into Israel. Hamas leaders have moderated their positions on acceptance of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and expressed willingness to sign a long-term cease-fire. All of this provides the Obama administration with clear avenues for productive diplomacy.
By refraining from using tough language against Israel over this incident, Washington might have regained its ability to quietly influence Tel Aviv. But it cannot allow such silence to be understood as acquiescence or support for an act of violence in international waters. A better way to respond would be to move to reach an understanding with Hamas regarding security and other issues. In return for the beginnings of dialogue with the United States, Hamas should be asked to agree to a complete cease-fire, including that of violence by more radical groups, and a commitment not to disturb the U.S.-sponsored proximity talks.
Even in Israel there are voices calling for the government to change its policy on Hamas. “The way to press Hamas on various fronts . . . is to talk to it, not to boycott it,” wrote Giora Eiland, head of the Israeli National Security Council, in the independent daily Haaretz.