On Friday quite a few Israelis were eating their hearts out: How, they wondered. did they manage not to assassinate [Palestinian Prime Minister] Ismail Haniyeh? Had the Palestinians only aimed a little bit more accurately, it would have been possible to put an end to Israel's real problem. For this is the new panic: Hamas is bringing money from Iran. Now Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will have a base in the territories and his "deputy," the Hamas people, will act according to his commands.
Why should the Palestinians act according to the commands of Iran, and not on the instructions of Saudi Arabia, which this year sent along tens of millions of dollars, or according to the commands of Qatar, which has committed to paying the salaries of officials of the Palestinian Authority, of which the Hamas is now in charge? Why forget the previous aid from Iran, which only now has come to the fore? Because that's how you build a threat: If you have touched Ahmadinejad, you are Ahmadinejad. Never mind that Turkey does business with Iran, or India, the Israeli aviation industry's client, which is about to purchase billions of dollars worth of gas from Ahmadinejad. But Haniyeh?
Haniyeh would not have had to accept money from Iran if Israel had understood that an economic boycott does not ensure desirable political results and mainly harms an innocent population; if Israel had not pretended that only recognition of the Jewish state was lacking for it to agree to conduct diplomatic talks; and if it had recognized that Hamas won the elections not because the Palestinian people had chosen Allah. But now the tree that Israel climbed is shooting even higher. Keeping money out of the hands of Hamas has become a strategic aim, and blocking the dinars will become a measure of victory, and not a means for changing its policy.
Israel can make this rule, because at the same time, there is a paradox. It turns out that even when the Palestinians are killing one another, the hudna is still in effect. Qassams are still landing on Sderot, but Hamas' commitment is still in force. They are also getting money from Iran, and it is still true that the hudna has not been canceled. And the Israeli is tearing his hair out and wondering: What's going on here?
What is going on is that there is a violent struggle raging for political control. A struggle in which a movement that won elections according to rules of the game set by the Palestinian constitution, America's aspirations and Israel's willingness is being asked to concede to the movement that lost. What is happening is that this movement, Hamas, is even prepared to concede in the domestic political arena, on condition that the concession is reasonable and honorable. If the demand is for Hamas to give up the position of prime minister, at least key portfolios should remain in its hands. Temporarily, it is shelving its radical religious ideology. Perhaps Hamas will pull this out when new elections are held, and it wins again in a big way, and on condition that it is then left to run the Palestinian state.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is not certain that in fact his faction will be elected this time. This is, after all, the same Abbas who once threatened to hold a referendum on the prisoners' document and changed his mind; threatened to fire Haniyeh and changed his mind; and now is threatening early elections, because perhaps this threat will have an effect. It is indeed having an effect, but mostly on Israel.
Herein lies a second paradox. Israel, of course, is "making an extraordinary effort," as the prime minister explained to the German chancellor, to advance the peace process. So extraordinary that it is really paralyzing it. Because what will happen if early elections are indeed held in the PA and Hamas loses? What will be the fate of the hudna? After all, in the absence of a peace process, or confidence-building measures, or at least just the release of prisoners, Abu Mazen will have nothing to talk about with Israel. He will once again be left with agreements that are of no use to him. Worse than that, Hamas will once again be free to use its military veto and cancel the hudna.
It would not be going too far to suspect that in the absence of a desire to conduct real negotiations for peace, Israel's secret aspiration is for Hamas to win again, so again it will not have a partner and again the hudna will be maintained.
According to Israeli-style common sense, the real effort needs to be directed at crushing the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report, which has linked the private Israeli-Palestinian peace to a general, American-Iraqi peace. Then life will indeed be wonderful.
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