Defining the enemy
The Palestinian leadership realizes, and Israel also understands, that there is no other choice than to cooperate with these organizations, which hold a violent right of veto over the peace process.
Israel's indirect dialogue with Hamas and Islamic Jihad will resume on Tuesday. The leadership of these organizations, apparently with the addition of a Syrian representative, will meet in Cairo to continue the dialogue that resulted in the current cease-fire and enabled the election of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the appointment of his government. This cease-fire is also needed to allow elections for the Palestinian parliament to be held in July.
Against the background of cries for liquidating the infrastructure of terror, the Palestinian leadership realizes, and Israel also understands, that there is no other choice than to cooperate with these organizations, which hold a violent right of veto over the peace process. As in Lebanon, armed separatist organizations are an inseparable part of the social and political fabric in the territories. It is impossible to wage "all-out war" against them, and any frontal confrontation that comes from the outside - Israel versus Hamas, America versus Hezbollah - only serves to strengthen them.
Last week, The New York Times reported that the American administration now prefers to keep quiet about Hezbollah and not to demand that it be disarmed. First, Syria should leave Lebanon; then, if at all, the Hezbollah issue will be raised again. And perhaps not. Because there is no alternative to realizing that Hezbollah, which holds very strong cards in the Lebanese political arena, is participating in the democratic game in Lebanon - the game that is of such interest to the United States. Hezbollah is, indeed, part of the Lebanese sovereignty, about which the U.S. is so insistent.
This is an American lesson that Israel has no choice but to adopt in its approach to organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The readiness of these organizations to participate in Palestinian politics and at the same time adopt a cease-fire, with Egypt granting them an umbrella of legitimacy, is part of the upheaval currently underway.
And here is a problem. Anyone accepting the logic of the partnership with organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad must be consistent. After all, how can one demand that Syria, for example, expel the Hamas and Jihad command centers from its territory when, at the same time, these organizations are conducting indirect negotiations via Egypt or the PA? Can one agree to cease-fire conditions that are at least partially dictated by these organizations and simultaneously call for a "war against the terror infrastructure," which comprise these same organizations? Can one bask in the warm light of the "new" Egyptian peace and at the same time realize that Egypt is seeking to form a united Palestinian leadership - that is, with the same organizations comprising the "infrastructure of terror?"
Israel cannot feign innocence and say it does not recognize the Palestinian organizations as an integral part of Palestinian politics. In the same way, these organizations, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad, cannot claim any longer that they are not conducting negotiations with Israel. Once the plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza finally faded away, and reasonable partners like Egypt and the PA were found that were willing to assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip, and especially after the Palestinian organizations agreed to help the PA in this mission, these organizations have attained a new status. These "infrastructures of terror" are now the guarantee that Israel will succeed - at least from the Palestinian side - to separate from Gaza without sustaining real damage.
The end of the armed intifada - at least its temporary end - obligates Israel to reassess its basic assumptions about how it defines its immediate enemies. If the entire PA and its associated organizations were defined as terror organizations during the intifada period, and if only the separatist organizations were defined as a "terror infrastructure" after the formation of a new PA by Abu Mazen, and the other Palestinian headquarters were "acquitted" of this title, it may be that Israel will soon need to go down another level - to one of the individual, unaffiliated attacker, whose hatred and loathing is only "personal," rather than organizational or ideological.
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