By Ami Isseroff
Those who want to learn from history can get a whole education from recent events in
While all this show was going on, and not by coincidence, the Quartet held a meeting upholding the Annapolis "process." At the same time, a group of European MPs landed in
Israeli PM Olmert told IDF troops that a clash in Gaza was "unavoidable". Since the clash is ongoing that hardly required the prophetic vision of Isaiah, but it is likely that Ehud Olmert meant a more major clash might ensue.
What can we learn from this confused babel? A number of points emerge which characterize most relations with the Palestinians since 1994, and in particular those with the late Mr. Yasser Arafat's government and the Hamas government in
Treaties and agreements are written on sand - The lull in
Slow Death - A frog can be boiled to death gradually, raising the temperature a small increment each time. He will never notice. Agreements with Palestinians never die, they just fade away, one rocket at a time, one Molotov cocktail at a time, one kidnapping at a time. Suppose the IDF had not uncovered the tunnel, and the Palestinians had kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Wouldn't that have been a reason to declare the truce null and void? The fact that the IDF discovered the tunnel has no bearing on the intent of the perpetrators. At each stage, Israel acquiesces in the new level of violence and plays by the rules of the other side, because it seems to have no choice.
Deniability - Like Mr Arafat, Mr. Haniyeh has set up a vast apparatus of indirection and deniability. Every Palestinian group, immediately on its formation, splits up into three or four other groups, which can be claimed as "independent factions" that are "out of control" - even though they are all one and the same. It was not Fatah that carried out all those "militant" attacks in the 70s, it was Black September. It was not Hamas that kidnapped Gilad Shalit, we were told, but Jayish al Islam, a splinter of the very Popular Resistance Committees. Later of course, it turns out that it was Fatah behind Black September all the time, and that the Izz al-din al Qassam Brigades of the Hamas were responsible for the kidnapping of Shalit, and that all these people can change their hats and say they are part of the Popular Resistance Committees or the Abu Rish brigade or the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades whenever necessary. A "militant" by any other name blows up just as loudly. And if in fact, Hamas claims responsibility for an attack, there is always the "good cop - bad cop" fiction - Haniyeh wants peace, Zahar doesn't want peace and Meshal is a "moderate" in between them.
Negotiation events always draw 'militant' attacks - Every critical event in the Israeli-Palestinian Palestinian peace process was marked by a spike in
terror 'militant" activity. The Oslo accords brought the first suicide bombing in Mehola in 1993 even before they were signed. The Oslo Interim agreement and the 1996 Israeli elections brought a rash of bus bombings. The negotiations in 2000 brought the Second Intifada. There is never any way to decide if the terror 'resistance' attacks, are due to real opposition by factions opposed to the Palestinian government, or if the factions and the government are really the same folks with different hats, and the attacks are a way of pressuring
American diplomats live in virtual reality - While the "tunnel riots" were occurring in
Bad Press - In this case, it is absolutely clear. This time,
International support for
Palestinian Intransigence - Mahmoud Abbas has been adamant about not budging an inch on any issue, and anyhow he doesn't control the Palestinian government. Abbas told Palestinians
"We rejected Israeli proposals that stipulated making concessions including on
"We either get all six points -
The Palestinian leader added that he had made his position clear during a meeting Sunday with the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the
Abbas has learned nothing and forgotten nothing: Our way or the highway. Yet after he voiced these sentiments to the Quartet, the meeting concluded with festive announcements: "A good time was had by all." Remember please, that this is not the voice of the Hamas, but of the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas hardly controls his own
So we can see, in a few days action, a repetition in miniature of almost all the feature of the entire Israeli-Palestinian "peace process:" agreements are not honored, gradual escalation - salami tactics, bad press, international support for "militants," Palestinian mixed signals but actual intransigence, and unrealistic and one-sided diplomatic activity by the West. Israeli incompetence no doubt has a role in all this too. It is probably the same with almost any little slice of time that we take.
At the worst possible time, the Israeli government, a transition government, faces a critical choice. If a clash with Hamas is inevitable, then frankly there is no time like the present. A few months from now, Hamas will be that much stronger. A new
There will never be a "good" time for fighting Hamas. The worst time would be after they surprise
Politics is no panacea. No matter who is in office, they will be faced with the same trade-offs and the same constraints. Benjamin Netanyahu will make brave pronouncements. If words had the value of ordnance, he would have finished off Mr Arafat and the Palestinian Authority in 1997. But Arafat didn't go away. Netanyahu responded to the cries of "Itbach al Yahud" with the
terror militancy. He carried out the disengagement. "From here," he said, "it doesn't look the same as it did from there."
If on the other hand, it is concluded that wiping out Hamas is too risky or too bloody an option, then an urgent bipartisan policy review is required, to chart a new Israeli policy before it is too late. Whatever we are doing now is not working. We can't wait until elections in February to fix it. They won't fix it.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.