Conquering the Delusion of Farewell to the Other

From billboards at the sides of the highways and from hoardings along city streets, Kadima is promising to follow the path of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a one-sided path. The Labor Party is swearing to fight terror and win in education, in the eradication of poverty and in employment. The Likud is declaring war on Hamas, and Avigdor Lieberman is promising security. Peace? Phooey. Even Meretz has chosen to lower its main banner to half mast and put "the person" in "the center."

A document that the Economic Cooperation Foundation ?(ECF?), founded by Yossi Beilin, has sent to people in key positions in the government echelon in Israel, the United States and Europe indicates despair with the Palestinian Authority. It proposes that an international security regime enter the territories on the day the Israel Defense Forces exits. It should be noted that there have been no report of lines at the recruitment offices in London and Washington. There, in fact, they are talking about taking forces out of the Middle East. The 2006 elections, the elections after the unilateral disengagement and before the unilateral convergence, will go down in the state's history as the end of the era of coexistence and of the period of bilateralism. Of course, until the awakening from the shock of the second intifada and the no-partner fairy tale, or until the awakening from the dream of separation from the neighbors and the delusion of farewell to the other. The Likud, which under no conditions is prepared to conduct negotiations on Hebron, Ofra and Beit El, is preaching against an unconditional withdrawal.

Kadima, which is claiming that it has committed itself to inviting the Palestinians to negotiations, is both refusing to recognize the Hamas government and ignoring the existence of the elected Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas ?(Abu Mazen?).

The Israelis' attitude toward peace is reminiscent of a line in a Hebrew pop song line from Yaakov Rotblit's "I See You on the Way to the Gymnasia." Peace is like the desired object of the singer who believes "for me you are lost." A survey that was conducted between March 12 and March 16 in Israel and the territories shows that on both sides people are, in fact, very interested in a partner. Interested, but they don't believe that one is within reach. Ariel Sharon, who was not prepared to pay the full price of a permanent status agreement, convinced public opinion that the other side is not interested, and all of the parties to the left of Kadima lined up with the prevailing opinion and raised high the banner of unilateral withdrawal.

The survey that was conducted by the Truman Center at the Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research ?(PSR?) shows that a vast majority of the Israel public, 76 percent, prefers that a further disengagement in the West Bank be carried out by means of negotiations − and not unilaterally. Only 17 percent are sticking to unilateralism. A majority of the Palestinians ?(73 percent?) also prefers negotiations to unilateral moves.Moreover, 60 percent of the Israelis support entering into negotiations on a permanent status agreement with Abu Mazen.

In conditions of peace and after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, 68 percent of the Israelis ?(and 66 percent of the Palestinians?) are prepared to recognize reciprocally Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people and Israel as the state of the Jewish people. However, in the absence of a two-state solution, only 37 percent of the Palestinians support recognition by Hamas of the State of Israel, as compared to 59 percent who are opposed to this. Labor chair Amir Peretz and Meretz chair Yossi Beilin are promising that the day after the elections, they will take the peace negotiations out of the attic. In Kadima, too, they are talking about negotiations − negotiations with the "international community" on recognizing the borders that Israel will determine by the do-it-yourself method. Now here's a fascinating topic for negotiations on the policy plank in the new government's coalition agreement.

Hamas' disappointmentThis election race has been bad for the health of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. He is not accustomed to restraining himself for such a long time from sending Palestinian leaders directly to paradise by air force mail. In fact, in the most official way, the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections and its entry into the government have not changed its status as far as Israel is concerned. Even the government decision from the early days of the intifada, when Yasser Arafat was in Mofaz's crosshairs ?(a decision that declared the PA "an entity that supports terror"?), is still in force. Were it only up to him, it is doubtful that Mofaz would resist the temptation to send Ismail Haniyeh on his way to his mentor and teacher, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

It is true that the Americans have asked to let the territories calm down, but for a long time now America hasn?t made any particular impression on him. See the closing of the Karni crossing, despite the agreement with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn. The order to hold fire came this time from above, from Ehud Olmert and Dov Weissglas, people who have the power to decide whether Mofaz remains in the defense minister's bureau or has to content himself with the Transportation Ministry.

In Kadima they have preferred to keep mum about Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu's "Smolmert" campaign − a portmanteau coinage combining the words "left" and "Olmert" − and not risk targeted assassinations that would draw the Hamas tigers out of their dens. At least until 10 P.M. tonight Haniyeh and his pals can stroll at ease through the streets of Gaza. As of yesterday afternoon, the restraint paid off. It turns out that as long as buses aren't blowing up, the public doesn?t care which Palestinian party is ?(not?) in control of the territories that Israel is occupying.

In that same Truman Center survey, 58 percent of the Israelis said that the Hamas victory has neither increased nor decreased the threat to Israel's security, and only 42 percent replied that the threat has increased. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of the Israelis support negotiations with Hamas, although only 6 percent assume that in the foreseeable future the violence will give way to a diplomatic process. But everything that happens after the polling stations close belongs to a different opera.