One PA - With Hamas

Waging a war against Hamas would resemble a Lebanese attempt to wage war against Hezbollah - it would be impossible without completely shattering Palestinian society.

As much as the Annapolis conference sought to be "in favor" of the peace process, it measured its success in its ability to be "against" - against Iran, against Hezbollah, against Syria and against Hamas. This is an ostensibly simple and convincing method of measurement. The more Arab leaders at the conference's gala dinner, the greater the victory of the "against" forces: Iran became more isolated, Hamas was pushed into a corner and Hezbollah remained alone. This is one way to assess the conference, but it will turn out to be meaningless when the time comes soon to pay the Annapolis IOUs.

Take, for example, the question of isolating Hamas. This chapter should particularly interest Israel because Hamas is the key to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' ability to demonstrate his "partnerability." According to the "Bush test," which requires "destroying the infrastructures of terror," there is no gray area: Hamas must be dismantled. Abbas not only needs to disarm the Hamas army, crush the Qassam cells and jail the wanted men. He must also take apart Hamas' organizational framework, its civic infrastructure, schools and health clinics. He will be judged by these steps, which Israel will require as initial proof of implementing the road map.

But what about the many people who support Hamas - not because they are more religious, but because the movement was perceived a year ago as a worthy alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization's corruption? Even today, despite a drop in Hamas' popularity, especially after its takeover of Gaza in June and the street battles against ordinary citizens, Hamas is regarded as more than a terror organization. It is seen as a political movement that does not recognize Israel and rejects negotiations with it - principles that have considerable support among the Palestinian people.

Therefore, Abbas' staying power as a partner (assuming Olmert proves to be an Israeli partner) will not hinge on a suitable formula for the refugee problem, or an acceptable demarcation of East Jerusalem's borders, or even on an agreement on the aquifers. It will hinge on the Palestinians putting their house in order. Abbas speaks about 6,000 or so square kilometers of the state he seeks to receive from Israel, while Gaza, an inseparable part of this state, is currently ruled by a rival - in fact, enemy - government.

Waging a real war against Hamas would resemble a Lebanese attempt to wage war against Hezbollah. That is, it would be impossible without completely shattering Palestinian society. It would be a civil war that splits neighborhoods and families. The other alternative is to return to national dialogue and the framework of understandings established in the prisoners' document, which ultimately led to a national unity government. This in turn was boycotted by Israel and most of the world.

True, even if this path is successful, it will not allow for a peace accord soon. As long as Hamas does not recognize Israel and rejects negotiations, its participation in a unity government will not reverse its policy. At most, it will allow Abbas to continue to conduct negotiations with Israel as PLO chairman without obligating Hamas to the results. In fact, this would create an identical situation to the one before and during Annapolis: negotiations with Israel that do not obligate the entire Palestinian people.

But there would be one significant difference. The Palestinian Authority would maintain one army and one system of law in a united territory, and would represent the entire Palestinian people. It would be more difficult to conduct negotiations with this PA, and even more so, to reach an agreement with it within a year or five years. But it would at least be possible to agree on managing everyday life in a reasonable way. And this would be no small accomplishment - not only for the Palestinians, but mainly for future agreements. Without this, it would perhaps be possible to sign impressive documents, but these would only be documents.