There's no need to wait for the Kadima government to be presented to the Knesset in order to declare the victory of Ariel Sharon's "path." The anticipated presentation of the Hamas government to the Palestinian parliament is the purest expression of the path for which the revered founder of Kadima strived: the path of unilateralism. The raid in Jericho - like the tractors in the occupied area between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, known as E-1, and like the declaration that the settlement of Ariel is part and parcel of the State of Israel - guarantees that the student Ehud Olmert will yet outshine his mentor. He is showing the Jewish people and the entire world that there are only two ways: the violent status quo that the rightists would like, or a disengagement/convergence a la Kadima. Madrid, Oslo and Geneva are over and done with. From now on, Jerusalem will determine its path all by itself. And let no one pester us with road maps.
According to the polls, the Israeli public, which for years eagerly bought into the idea of an "enlightened occupation," is now going gaga over the new merchandise. Serious and clever people believe in the new Israeli start-up: an arrangement in which Side A sets the conditions without Side B.
Hamas' victory demonstrates that Palestinian public opinion has gotten the message. The great majority of Palestinians, who still favor a two-state solution, realized that Israel was not interested in Fatah, the party that represents a two-sided solution, as a party to negotiations. The chairman, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), is still grasping onto the horns of the altar, but he has hinted that he is starting to get fed up with playing the role of the irrelevant Side B.
And if there is no need for a Side B, who needs a Side C? When Israel does as it wishes in Gaza, and unashamedly ignores its agreements with the American secretary of state, is it any wonder that the Quartet's disengagement envoy, James Wolfensohn, is packing his bags? He understood that Israel cares about the well-being, not to mention the freedom, of the Palestinians about as much as it cares about last year's snow. Four months ago, he told Haaretz that it sometimes seems as if the two sides assume that their conflict is the most important thing on earth - at a time when the world is troubled by severe poverty, epidemics and immigration problems.
"The assumption that over time you and the Palestinians will be able to maintain the centrality of your conflict is extremely dangerous," cautioned the 72-year-old Wolfensohn, who does not miss an opportunity to talk about how his father served in the Jewish Legion.
At a time when President George Bush is looking for ways to declare victory and get out of Iraq, it is hard to imagine that he will adamantly insist on putting the half-foot that he barely managed to pull out of our swamp right back into it.
Two professors, one from Harvard, the other from the University of Chicago, recently released a study that reflects growing repugnance with Israel. The study argues that Israel is a burden on the United States and that the pro-Israel policy which the Jewish lobby and Israel's friends among the Christian right have forced upon the administration blatantly contradicts the strategic interests of the superpower, as well as those of Israel.
America's partners in the Quartet - the European Union, the UN and Russia - are also showing signs of fatigue. If Israel prefers to deal with Hamas by itself, why should the Europeans maintain supervisors at the Rafah border crossing? After Israeli soldiers have forced Palestinian men to strip at the Jericho jail, it is a shame to risk the lives of American and British jailers. Members of the special multinational force have also had it with being the punching bag of the Hebron settlers, on the one hand, and of Palestinian punks, on the other.
If Israel wants to unilaterally disengage from territories in the West Bank, it must take into account that this is liable to cause disengagement from the international community, as well. The day is not far off when the world will tell us: If you want to turn the Gaza Strip into a state of the Muslim Brotherhood - have a nice time. If you want to starve Palestinian children - then you pay the price for the humanitarian disaster. You've decided to disengage unilaterally from the West Bank? Don't come to us when Al-Qaida opens a branch in Ramallah. To put it concisely: "We are fed up with you."
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