Ariel Sharon was granted immunity by the media for his peccadilloes by virtue of the disengagement. For the Palestinians, a regime that is torn by internal strife and gives itself perks is sent straight to the opposition. For us here in Israel, the regime bought the public's heart by extracting the state from the quicksand of Gaza. Fatah went into the elections empty-handed. Their corrupt leaders had nothing to offer apart from corruption, want and despair. The no-partner approach transformed their only advantage - the peace process - into an empty slogan. Hamas, which has not yet tasted the delights of rule, presented hands clean of corruption and a Gaza Strip clean of Israelis. Only walls of obtuseness and fences of fear could have concealed this simple truth from the eyes of the neighbor across the way.
It was to this alienation that Ehud Barak was referring when he compared us to a villa in the jungle. The animals of the jungle understand only strength. Negotiations are not conducted with savages. The only way to survive in a hostile environment is to erect barriers, shut yourself up in your house - and to hell with the neighbors. For our part, let them kill each other, let them die of starvation, some sooner and some later. We have "woken up" from Yasser Arafat, Oslo, Camp David and a negotiated settlement altogether. The Hamas victory symbolizes the defeat of this perception of power, which was eloquently expressed in an article by Ari Shavit, in summing up the Jewish year 5764 (2003-2004). "The impression emerges that the struggle between Israeli and Palestinian society has been determined," wrote Shavit. He attributed this "historic" achievement to the head of the Shin Bet security service at the time, Avi Dichter, and to the former chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alaon - calling it "an achievement that paves the way back to the diplomatic track by a dramatic military victory, the likes of which Israel has not achieved since 1967" (Haaretz Hebrew edition, Sept. 15, 2004). They promised to sear into the Palestinians' consciousness the fact that violence does not pay - and got a terror organization in the parliament and in the government. The rise of the Hamas is the price of the illusion of "we will take our fate into our own hands."
Israel and the Palestinians are Siamese twins. Anyone who wants to separate them has to take into account that at least one of them will not survive the surgery. There is no knowing which of them. In any case, the separation has to be done mutually, delicately and intelligently.
Prof. Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, the head of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the head of the Swiss Center for Conflict Research, Management and Resolution at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reveals the tracks of Israeli society's obtuseness toward the Palestinians. He finds a common denominator between the alienation from the inhabitants of Nablus and the fact of Israel turning its back on the people of Umm al-Fahm. With increasing concern, the veteran academic is observing his colleagues, supposedly "liberal" people, who are suggesting exchanges of territories, including their Israeli Arab inhabitants, with the Palestinians. According to him, hiding behind the idea that "we will do only what is good for us" is expressed in the annual "poverty festival" - the day after which the poor go back to rummaging through the garbage bins.
The settlers who were uprooted from Gush Katif, who are not getting what they have coming to them, are now learning a thing or two about the waning of solidarity with the weak. Barbara Tuchman wrote in "The March of Folly" that an act of failure by the government is called folly when it is the result of blind clinging to a policy that obviously cannot be implemented, or when it leads to a negative outcome.
The policy that Israel has been conducting in the territories for nearly 40 years now cannot be implemented, and its negative results are emerging everywhere. Tuchman writes that in historical terms, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's decision to abandon hostility toward Israel is a rare instance in which a ruler acknowledged that a certain policy does not serve his interest and risked changing it by 180 degrees.
By preferring common sense and courage to a blind continuation of negation, she added, Sadat achieved a supreme and lonely status in history, a status that was not damaged by the tragedy of his assassination. If there is a Sadat among us, would he please stand up.