One can already identify the outlines of the next Olmert government: Abu Mazen, as Tzipi Livni said, "is just sweet talk"; Hamas, as Shaul Mofaz said, is the terrible devil, particularly because it will legislate Islamic religious law; the Hamas authority is a terrorist authority, which is not worthy of any economic aid, as Olmert said - in short, the drawer that provided the policy toward Arafat is the same drawer that will provide the policy toward the authority run by Hamas.
The shaping of the Hamas image as the latest devil could be taken seriously if we were not familiar with the attitudes of Israeli governments toward any Palestinian leadership. But it seems there is no more need of proof that it is a system in which delegitimizing the opponent seemingly grants freedom from negotiations and unwanted concessions. One can cynically say that Israel could not have hoped for a better partner than Hamas, one that has already proven the theory there is no partner.
But the short historical memory should also put us on alert that it is possible that Israel will not have any better partners in the future. It's been less than 20 years since Hamas turned into a militant organization along with being a social one. At the end of the 1980s, nobody ascribed it much importance; in the mid-1990s, during Oslo's grace period, it was squashed by the Palestinian Authority; by early 2001, because of the intifada and the Fatah's corruption, it had established itself as the most important organization in the territories. And now it turns out that like Fatah and the PLO in general, which along with murdering Israelis was ready to negotiate with the Israeli government, so Hamas won't give up the armed struggle but wants to negotiate its end with precisely the same government that it "does not recognize." What more recognition does an occupying state need from the side that wants its recognition?
By virtue of presenting that condition, Israel is repositioning the threshold that says that since there is nobody to talk to, there is nothing to talk about. This is a very easy logic with which to agree, charming and seemingly justified, if only it were true. Because Israel systematically evades turning the formula around, from the possibility of formulating a "what" to create "a whom." And it is best not to get confused: the road map Israel proposes as its "political plan" is not a solution, not a replacement for negotiations, but a series of conditions to conduct negotiations.
Israel does not need the recognition of an organization that meanwhile has turned into an authority that is still not running a state. Israel confuses the demand for recognition with the justifiable demand for a change in the Hamas covenant that calls for the eradication of Israel, thus hiding the logical flaw hidden in the fact that it is impossible to eradicate something that you don't recognize. Hamas has in effect already recognized that flaw, when it speaks of Israel as "an existing fact" and explains that it does not recognize "only" the legitimacy of the regime in Israel.
Hamas, wisely, presents practical conditions for a cease-fire: prisoner releases, an end to the assassinations and demolitions, and departure from the occupied territories - without negotiations and without preconditions, as Israel always demanded. But it is impossible to accept such a proposal from an organization that is not prepared "to recognize Israel" and only recognizes that something nameless and formless continues to occupy it.
This is not only about logical flaws or confusing formulations. Israel is presenting to the new authority no more and no less than what the Hamas is ready to offer Israel: a long-term hudna in exchange for that recognition. Not overall withdrawal from the territories, and not recognition of the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate authority elected in free and open elections. The main point of the unofficial political platform of Kadima is drawing the state's borders unilaterally. Recognition, negotiation or just plain meetings have no place in such a plan. So, please, stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
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