The jaw drops to mid-throat in amazement when one hears politicians and commentators speaking about "humanitarian programs" or the cosmic question of "whither the road map?" For a moment it seems that the nation's leaders really are divided in two: those who are very troubled by the slow progress of some political plan's final stages, and those who are very busy shaping a non-plan to foil the plan of the first group. Both are leaning heavily on the successful situation that has fallen into their hands: Hamas rule enables the proponents of a political plan to determine there is no partner, so we can go with the unilateral plan; and the opponents of that plan, on the other hand, are marketing an "Iron Wall" as a means to prevent Hamas from getting stronger - meaning there is nothing to say about a political plan.
The interesting thing is that both groups speak of "Hamas' weakness," "blocking it," "jailing it" as if there had not been elections in the territories and as if the Palestinian public did not give that organization its full support. The assumption, made by both Amir Peretz and Benjamin Netanyahu, by Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, is that there is a magical equation: Economic pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority will lead to a backlash against the Hamas by Palestinian civilians. Palestinian democracy, the same democracy that elected Hamas, will give birth to new elections in another two years, Hamas will be thrown out and then the PA will be headed by a worthy "partner." Such dreams accompanied all sanctions ever imposed on a regime: The American sanctions on Iran were supposed to end in a pro-Western democratic regime; the sanctions against Iraq were supposed to lead to a rebellion that would yield a liberal-green leader; the sanctions against Sudan were meant to replace the Sharia regime with a republican one. The latest dream was in Lebanon when Israel believed, while it was still an occupier, that violent pressure on the civilians would lead to a change in their attitude toward Hezbollah. While this Israeli dream inspires ridicule (and horror, considering the depth of its stupidity), along comes another wonderful expression: "humanitarian aid." It is clear to those who support the "siege plan" that until the dream of the Palestinian revolt against its leadership takes place, the Palestinians must think well of Israel; otherwise, in another "two to three years" the Palestinians might elect the Islamic Jihad. That's the job of "humanitarian aid": Truckloads of food can go into Gaza and the West Bank towns, but the money earned from work and services is not allowed into Gaza or, as long as it is possible, into the West Bank. Those who need food or medicine can pick it up at pickup points.
But whoever happens to read a report published by an American aid agency last week might worry about the plausibility - let alone possibility - of implementing this plan. The report says that between January 15 and February 4, the Karni junction was closed, and it was closed again after February 21. Those who read the tales of trials and tribulations getting from one town to another in the West Bank, as detailed by Amira Hass in Haaretz, understand that there can be no other meaning to the term "humanitarian aid."
And why not? Even when Saddam Hussein was in power, there was a food and medicine program. That's the trap in the equation of those who believe there is a future without Hamas. Because Israel's problem is not Hamas, strong or weak; the problem is with the Palestinian people, who chose it. They have to be changed or eliminated if one wants quiet - that is the problem with this public. Israel has been through two intifadas with them, one "white," the other "red"; one known for its rocks, the other for its suicide attacks. Both emerged from a population that refused to make do with "humanitarian aid" or "political generosity." The first ended with the Oslo Accords, the second with much less, the hudna (cease-fire). If we had to guess on a psychometric exam the character of the third intifada, it's doubtful anyone would make a mistake. But as usual with us, we'll never know until it's tried.
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