Monday, January 30, 2006

For Israel: Life after Hamastan..

From Allison Kaplan Sommer's blog: "My general explanation for this has been that the average Israeli's coping mechanisms are just a little too powerfully honed: We've lived through seeing people -- including friends, friends of friends, family and neighbors, being shot at on our highways or blown to bits by terrorists on a regular basis in malls, pizza joints and coffee shops you've eaten in, and crowded buses turned into scorched metal coffins. We've sent our kids to school with gas masks and contemplated having chemical and biological-tipped missles hurled at us. We hear our right to live, breathe and exist debated on a regular basis.Frankly, under these conditions, it's hard to get worked up about mere election results, no matter how menacing. Panic doesn't come easily.But now I've read an article by Michael Oren that explains the measured Israeli reaction in a more analytical fashion, tying it to why this development won't really change the Israeli political map. A solid majority of Israelis accept that they cannot continue to occupy the West Bank and Gaza without endangering the moral and demographic foundations upon which the Jewish state is built. That same majority would prefer to negotiate with a freely elected Palestinian leadership toward the creation of a Palestinian state that would live side-by-side with Israel in a relationship of mutual and permanent recognition. In the wake of President Mahmoud Abbas's failure to disarm and dismantle terrorist organizations, however, most Israelis internalized the conclusion that no Palestinian leadership was capable of meeting the minimum requirements for peace. Consequently, these same Israelis have resolved to preserve their national interests by supporting the Kadimah party -- which, in the absence of peace talks, advocates drawing Israel's borders unilaterally. The advent of a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority will not alter these basic Israeli conclusions. Under Fatah, the PA expressed a willingness to renew the peace process but took none of the antiterror measures necessary to reactivate the talks. Hamas does not want peace talks, and will do everything to ensure that such discussions do not take place. In either case, Israel, in order to ensure its vital interests, will have to act unilaterally. There is no doubt that the Hamas victory will enable the right-wing Likud to point out the folly of the Gaza withdrawal and the danger of future unilateral pullbacks. Nevertheless, the outcome of the elections has confirmed Israeli doubts about the Palestinians' willingness to negotiate, and will more probably reinforce popular support for unilateral moves. With little impact on Israeli politics, Hamas's victory is also unlikely to effect major changes in Israeli security policies. Even before the elections, Israeli forces remained on constant alert and were actively engaged in combating the terror organizations which the PA refused to neutralize. The presence of a Hamas government in Ramallah will do little to alter the situation. There has never been a shortage of volunteers for suicide-bombers or the ordinance necessary for arming them, and augmented state support for terror will not increase the number of attempted attacks. Israel has already developed tactics for fighting terror, and will continue to apply them with success. What WILL change,Oren says (and most people have been saying lately) is the ability of the Palestinians to send a double message. The legitimacy which the Palestinians have freely granted terror by voting for Hamas will facilitate Israel's efforts to defend itself. The PA will no longer be able to claim ignorance of terror operations, and Israel can better justify pre-emptive and retaliatory actions before the world. On the diplomatic front, the Palestinian election has sown confusion among U.S. and European sponsors of the Road Map. The Bush administration has adamantly refused to deal with Hamas until it disavows violence and accepts Israel's existence, even calling on Mr. Abbas to remain in office. The European Union has been more equivocal, intimating a willingness to deal with any Palestinian government "interested in peace." Still, even the most imaginative Europeans will have difficultly construing Hamas's platform of praising terror and categorically rejecting Israel as peaceful. U.S. and European officials alike have maintained the hope that by taking on the responsibilities of government, Hamas will be forced to moderate its policies. But this presumes that it is committed to the democratic process, and that radical parties, upon achieving power, invariably moderate. The example of Iran refutes both assumptions. Even if Hamas agrees to a prolonged ceasefire, it will remain doctrinally incapable of accepting the legitimacy of the Jewish state or of permanently refraining from seeking its destruction. The presence of a Mr. Abbas as a puppet president will not dissemble the basic reality that Hamas is in control and cannot be a partner for peace. The logic of unilateralism--that in the absence of a credible Palestinan partner, Israel must define its own borders--has never been more compelling. Yet, ironically, the consequences of unilateralism have never been more terrifying. Until the Hamas victory, those of us who supported further unilateral withdrawal hardly expected Fatah to control terror and rocket attacks from the evacuated territories, but could at least trust that Fatah would try to prevent Iranian penetration, if only to ensure its continued rule. Now, though, any territory Israel evacuates will almost certainly become a frontline base for Iran. The operative result of the Hamas victory, then, is that Tehran has just moved several thousand kilometers closer to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In fact, Israel is now surrounded by Iranian proxies--Hezbollah to the north and Hamas to the south and east. As untenable as Israel's options have now become, the more enduring tragedy belongs to the Palestinian people. Palestinians have chosen rejectionism after being handed the entirety of Gaza as an experiment in Palestinian sovereignty. Electing Hamas, then, may well be the historical equivalent of the Palestinian rejection of U.N. partition in 1947. Palestinians have delivered their next generation to Moloch, to a movement whose religious pageants include parading children dressed as suicide bombers. The celebration of mass murderers as religious martyrs and educational role models, promoted by both Fatah and Hamas, has now reached its inevitable conclusion in the national suicide of the Palestinian people.

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