Michael Walzer has a concise defense of always talking to enemy governments, but drawing the line at terror organizations. With this caveat:

We make an exception when the gang is holding hostages--its members may not care about innocent lives, but we do. In such a case, the goal is to save the hostages and then, if we can, capture or kill the gang members. There is no ongoing business to be done.

That is the standard doctrine, and yet Israel, a strong exponent of this doctrine, is not only negotiating with Syria but also with Hamas (through the mediation of Egypt). This approach seems to be the right one, not only because Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier, but also because it isn’t just a terrorist organizationthough it is thatbut also the government of the Gaza strip. It is a kind of regime standing in for a kind of country. The significance of those two words, “kind of,” is reflected in the fact that the negotiations with Hamas are also negotiations with the Egyptian mediator (which could, but so far hasn’t, cut off the movement of weapons into Gaza).

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