Friday, January 27, 2006



As the old saying has it: the operation was successful. However, the patient died.
The operation: the elections in the West Bank and Gaza. By all accounts, they were conducted in true democratic fashion. Since the Palestinians couldn’t have learnt it from their Arab neighbors and supporters, they must have learnt it from the Israelis.
The patient: the Palestinian authority. Hamas had a resounding victory. Though the reasons for it may be internal – the corruption and the mismanagement of the until now ruling Fatah party – the effect has vast implications. Even if it was Fatah mismanagement that led to the Hamas victory, the repercussions for Israel are as yet incalculable. Some say that it has brought Iran to Israel’s borders.
Here in Israel, opponents of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza insist that it was this that gave succor to Hamas and helped it to convince the Palestinians that only their hard line approach can yield results. “We told you so” is the refrain of settlers’ leaders and others. They remind us that even after their victory leaders of Hamas declare that they’ll continue the armed struggle against Israel and that they stand by their commitment to seek to eradicate it.
Ehud Olmert (and presumably Arik Sharon, though it’s still taboo to criticize the ailing Prime Minster) is accused of having yielded to international pressure and squandered Israel’s interests. Right-wing opponents hope to capitalize on it in the March elections. The most recent polls still point to a Kadima victory and poor results for Likud, but polls also predicted a Fatah victory in the Palestinian elections.
The arguments include implied references to the Psalmist who warns us not to trust in princes. World leaders have implied that they won’t cooperate with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. This means that they would withhold the funds without which the Authority allegedly cannot function. But international opinion is fickle. In the struggle between Israel and her enemies, European states - at times even America - often take the side of the enemies, especially when essential oil supplies are at risk. Moreover, Iran may make up the shortfall; its oil revenues are soaring.
Good news doesn’t stay good for long, particularly when prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians are on the agenda. The hopeful signs from previous weeks are evaporating. But it’s still too early to assess if the patient is really dead. There are optimists around who believe that he’s only in shock and will soon wake up to face reality.
Some of the optimists suggest that, after an internal struggle, Hamas will modify its stance in the way Arafat’s PLO once did. Perhaps, they say, it’s better to have Hamas inside the proverbial tent than outside it.
What if that doesn’t happen? If your optimism is persistent you may suggest that a Kadima-Labor government in Israel will know how to protect the country’s borders by completing the fence in ways that are most convenient to Israel and leave the land on the other side to the devices of the Palestinians by way of unilateral withdrawal. We may not live in peace with each other, but Israel may still have security. If the Palestinians will suffer, as they’re bound to, they only have themselves to blame by electing the government they did.

Jerusalem 28.1.06 Dow Marmur

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