Buoyant Hamas Talks of Truce

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Following Israel’s botched assassination attempt, Hamas is the improbable occupant of the Mideast high ground. The militant Islamic group took advantage of this fact Tuesday to offer Israel a barbed olive branch — they would negotiate a ceasefire, but under preconditions that no Israeli government would accept.

In fact, the offer from Sheikh Yassin, the organization’s recently-freed leader, was more a reaffirming of his intent to prosecute a permanent Holy War. As TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad puts it, “The moment Hamas compromises with the Israelis, then they are no longer Hamas.”

Taking another step down the road of reaffirmation, Sheikh Yassin will meet with Yasser Arafat late Tuesday to demand a release of Hamas prisoners. Says Hamad: “In the last few days Hamas has been crowned as a legitimate political organization, which is growing in strength. Now Arafat will have to think about the Hamas reaction before he takes decisions.” Sounds like U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross is about to earn some more frequent flyer miles.