Back to the Enlightened Occupation

Israel, which demanded democratization and received Hamas, is not obliged to recognize it as a party that can represent the Palestinians in peace talks, but it cannot shrug off its responsibility as an occupier.

"The Palestinian people chose Hamas because of its principles, as expressed in its charter," explained Moussa Abu Marzouk, Khaled Meshal's deputy, in response to the question of why Hamas cannot possibly recognize Israel. There is no basis for this statement. Hamas also knows it was not elected because of its call to obliterate Israel. Dozens of opinion polls published during the past year attest to this. According to these polls, most of the Palestinian public want to advance the peace process. Hamas was elected mainly because it was perceived as an alternative to a corrupt government, which promoted the affairs of its activists rather than the Palestinian people.

The election of Hamas poses a dilemma for Israel, one for which there is no solution - at least for now. On one hand, boycotting Hamas appears to be the most correct thing to do from every aspect. Hamas is defined as a terror organization, according to its principles it does not recognize Israel and even aspires to eliminate it, and it does not recognize the agreements signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

On the other hand, this is the choice of the Palestinian people, and ignoring the results, freezing the funds that Israel is obliged to transfer to the PA and preventing assistance means the collective punishment of about 3.5 million civilians for deciding to generate change via democratic means. The overwhelming majority of this same population of millions is tired of the intifada and has welcomed the relative calm. Now, when it seems to them that there is hope of establishing a more just regime that is not tainted by corruption, they are slated for even more punishment.

It turns out that democracy is a bitter pill to swallow, and it is now about to choke both the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is because the same "Palestine" that replaced its leadership is a patchwork blanket that in Israel's eyes is nothing more than "Judea and Samaria," or occupied territories at most; it does not matter who manages them in practice. Israel's policy, even as expressed by those who are prepared to talk about an additional disengagement, amounts to a new arrangement of the same patches. According to this policy, even if a new border is demarcated, the occupation will not end and no peace accord will be signed.

Therefore, Israel's cry that there will be no one with whom to talk about a peace accord due to the election of Hamas is not relevant. However, this cry attempts to conceal Israel's responsibility for the well-being and support of the residents of the occupied territories, which stems exclusively from one historic event: the occupation. Unfortunately, no international convention can condition assistance to civilians in an occupied territory on their electing secular and democratic representatives. Israel, which demanded democratization and received Hamas, is not obliged, of course, to recognize it as a party that can represent the Palestinians in peace talks, but it cannot shrug off its responsibility as an occupier.

Israel faces two options: to return to the period of "enlightened occupation," when the military government directly handled the payment of salaries, the development of water and sewage networks and the paving of streets, or it can delegate these authorities to an elected body - Hamas, for example, which has demonstrated order, a capability to organize and a lack of corruption.

A return to the direct civil occupation is a tempting option until one recalls that several impossible conditions are attached to it: disarming Fatah, which is no longer the representative body; disarming Hamas, which is a terror organization; and canceling the period of relative calm and returning to war with the dusty slogan "Let the Israel Defense Forces win."

It may still be possible to wait a few weeks before it becomes clear that Israel does not even have the option of pressuring Hamas. This is because the economic hardship, the heavy debt to the Israel Electric Corporation, non-payment of salaries to the Palestinian security forces, the elimination of budgets for hospitals and thousands of other essential items for daily life that cannot be purchased, will start to direct the pressure in the opposite direction: from Hamas to Jerusalem. It would be best for Israel to quickly transfer responsibility for the daily management of the territories to anyone willing to do so - even if it is called Hamas.