Most people in Western democracies, especially in Europe, tend to view negotiation as constituting the magic formula for every conflict in international politics. Sadly, this advocated course of action is only seldom thoroughly reflected. It seems more like a reflex whenever some group or state is not behaving the way the West wants it to and the latter apparently can do nothing to change that by coercive means.
Former US President Jimmy Carter seems to share this predominant view. On his current trip to the Middle East he justified his controversial course of action of talking to Hamas by arguing the following: "You can't have an agreement that must involve certain parties [i.e., Hamas], unless you talk to those parties to conclude the agreement. You have to involve Hamas [...]. They have to be involved in some way." On another occasion he stated: "I do not think that it is possible to have peace without [...] Hamas."
Obviously, this course of action - as lovely as it might sound - has several logical shortcomings. It is at best futile and at worst counter-productive (by demonstrating to Hamas that it gets accepted and does not have to change).
Carter argues that you must "involve" Hamas if you want to achieve peace and security. Well, I absolutely agree on this one. Hamas is a major player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and can therefore not be ignored. Yet the problem is not Carter's premise. It is his conclusion jumping. He thinks that talking to Hamas is the only way one can involve Hamas. That fighting Hamas is another possible way of involving Hamas - one that should not be automatically discounted - gets completely ignored by Carter.
This said, the question then is whether a negotiated agreement is possible or whether military containment - as imperfect as it might be - is more promising. For negotiations to have any chance of success one condition has to be satisfied for sure: There needs to be something to negotiate about. Yet here is exactly the problem. Hamas does not recognize the existence of Israel and wants its destruction. Israel, obviously, wants its existence to be recognized and itself not to be destroyed. So how would a peace agreement possibly look like? Half of Israel being destroyed? There is simply no way those two positions can be reconciled!
So Carter is right when he does not think you can have peace without Hamas. Yet the same goes for the possibility of having peace with Hamas!
To conclude, the futility of talking to Hamas has been most eloquently put by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with CNN. Being asked if he does not think that it is time Israel talked to Hamas he stated: "What are we gonna talk about? The method of our own destruction?"