According to recent media reports, former Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon is in talks with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on the conditions for joining Netanyahu's beehive. In May 1996, at the height of Shimon Peres' campaign for the premiership, Ya'alon stung Netanyahu where it hurts him most: terror and Iran. Ya'alon, who was chief of Military Intelligence at the time, said Iran was encouraging terror organizations to increase their activity to bring about the rise of Likud. Netanyahu defended himself: "If the goal of Iran and of the terror organizations that operate under its aegis is to bring an end to the peace process by means of terror, they will be disappointed. A Likud-led government will continue the peace process in its own way."
Likud won those elections. Despite the promises, the way in which the "old" Netanyahu (and to be fair, his successors as well) promoted the peace process with the Palestinians (and Syrians) apparently pleased Iran and its partners, first and foremost Hamas.
Now the "new" Netanyahu is proposing an improved path: It is called "economic peace." Mr. Privatization promises that once economic growth in the Palestinian Authority reaches 10 percent annually, and the change is seen and felt, we will achieve stability on the ground. Instead of discussing issues such as the Temple Mount, borders and refugees, he will talk to the Palestinians about building a civil society.
Last Wednesday Aluf Benn wrote here ("Give him a chance, Netanyahu will say") that Netanyahu has already managed to interest Barack Obama in his ideas. During their meeting last June in Jerusalem, the new-old claimant to the throne explained to the U.S. visitor that instead of arguing about removing checkpoints, it would be better to create employment opportunities near Palestinian cities and build projects that will get the economy in the territories moving. Jordan and Egypt will probably join the effort, he said.
According to all the available evidence, Hamas is welcoming Netanyahu's comeback. In an interview about a week ago with the newspaper Al-Arab al-Youm, which was cited on the Muslim Brotherhood Web site, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal was asked what motivated Jordan to begin talks with his organization.
Meshal cited four regional developments working in Hamas' favor: the new Palestinian reality, a result of Hamas' rise and strengthening; the dead-end in the talks on a final-status agreement; the rightward turn in Israeli politics (which threatens Jordan); and the loss of American credibility in the region.
The idea of replacing the peace talks with methods of conflict management suits Hamas to a tee. To them, an "overall peace" that will improve everyday life is a tahadiyeh (truce). The head of the Hamas government will be happy to sign a new temporary truce with Netanyahu and toss the road map into the trash, along with the Annapolis declaration and Ehud Olmert's maps. Hamas does not even mind if Netanyahu builds new settlements.
On the contrary, the more Jews there are in the West Bank, the lesser the danger that Greater Israel will remain a Jewish state, and the stronger the chances that it will become a binational state, and eventually Greater Palestine.
With unconcealed irony, veteran Palestinian columnist Hani al-Masri said during a recent meeting with Israelis that if it is really possible to carry out economic, democratic and security reform under occupation, as Netanyahu proposes, then why not leave the occupation in place?
In an article in the East Jerusalem newspaper Al-Ayyam, Masri analyzed the reasons for the failure of the Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah.
He claimed that Hamas, which has not succeeded in ending the rule of PA President Mahmoud Abbas before the end of his term in January 2009, has decided to wait for Netanyahu's second term, to start a month later.
Why should Hamas pay a high price, such as recognizing Israel, wrote Masri, when in a few months from now Netanyahu will be sending Abbas to drink the Dead Sea?
Obama's reaction to Netanyahu's ideas for an "overall peace" was not available at the time of this writing. We can only hope that America's first black president will remind the Israelis of what happened to the Bantustans - the black enclaves invented by the white apartheid regime in South Africa.
To ensure that Tehran does not get carried away in its rejoicing, it is important for Obama to point this out even before the polls in divided Jerusalem kick off, and to reveal his peace plan.
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