Hamas Should Be Given a Chance

Palestinian reconciliation is not good for Israel according to the distorted zero sum game that we have been playing forever: What is good for them is bad for us.

Why should we bother with elections, changing prime ministers and parties? For what do we need all this unnecessary trouble if Israel's response will always be the same, government after government on autopilot? Why is it that every time there appears to be a chance for positive change,Israel is quick to make a sour face, to scaremonger and hunker down behind its rejectionism. Why? Because that is how we are.

The reporters have not even managed to deliver their stories from the press conference of Azam al-Ahmed and Musa Abu Marzuk, and Benjamin Netanyahu was already in his media room to send out a public sour face. Even before he was done, the national chorus embarked on its song of rejectionism, which has become the national anthem, while in the background the orchestra of threats is playing. Like the wreckage of the school bus that was hit by a missile from Gaza, which is being sent abroad on a "public relations campaign," the propagandists are now trying to score another fabricated point: Danger - Palestinian reconciliation. There is still no reconciliation, but the cries of the Israeli rejectionists are already being heard.

The texts are the same texts, word for word, like in the '70s and the '80s: a terrorist organization with which we will never negotiate. Then it was Fatah and now it is Hamas. The defense minister placed so many conditions on Hamas for it to be regarded as an interlocutor, that he simply means no. And Shimon Peres, who is now in favor of peace without removing settlements, made a presidential declaration: "The reconciliation will prevent a Palestinian state," - as if this is the Fatah position, as if Israel is about to leave the territories, and only this terrible, last minute development is preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Hamas, not Fatah, changed its position. This is (perhaps ) the good news. It is still too early to assess how serious it is and the burden of proof is on Hamas to show that it has turned moderate. But it should be given a chance. For two years we presented impossible conditions to Mahmoud Abbas, and now we miss him. "It's either us or Hamas," Netanyahu declares like some betrayed lover, as if the option of "us" was ever on the table.

The agreement that was initialed includes a promise for democratization and elections. Is that not what we always wanted? That is what the right demanded, is it not? All those who now say that it is a good thing that we did not make peace with the Arab tyrants should now be interested in peace with the entire Palestinian nation and not only with its rulers. This is their chance. All those who complain that Abbas is about to include a radical partner in his government should probably first look at the composition of our government. And all those who said that the Palestinians are divided and Abbas is weak, not a partner, should be pleased with the chance for a representative, powerful government.

But no. Palestinian reconciliation is not good for Israel according to the distorted zero sum game that we have been playing forever: What is good for them is bad for us. Listen to the reverberating words of Noam Chomsky in an interview with Gadi Algazi on Israel Social TV: The basic hypothesis of a democratic Israel must be a chance for a democratic Palestine. Is this not true?

The path to Palestinian reconciliation is still long, and the path to statehood even longer. In the alleys of Jenin and the tunnels of Rafah there is still nothing to celebrate. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv there is still nothing to worry about, to feel threatened by or even to rejoice about - as if we have been given a public relations "asset." If a unity government is set up, and if free elections are held, there will be a new possibility. Israel needs to welcome this, with the appropriate reservations.

How depressing was the South African Freedom Day party in Tel Aviv over the weekend. While South African ambassador Ismail Coovadia, a person who knows a thing or two about "terrorist organizations" with which it is "forbidden" to negotiate, and whose representatives have been governing for the past 20 years a free and relatively impressive country, spoke about the chances of Palestinian reconciliation, minister Benny Begin sought to frighten those present about the prospect of democratization in the Arab world, painting as black a picture as possible. That is because we are unchanged. The days go by, a year passes, but the song remains the same.