The Day After / A Seminal Change in the Mideast

Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections is one of the most important events in the history of the Middle East since the Six Day War. Not only does it change the picture, but also it puts it into a completely different frame. Palestine under Hamas rule puts an end not only to the road map and the Oslo process, but also to the formula embodied by UN Resolution 242: "land for peace" and an end to the conflict. Not only does it perpetuate the conflict, but also it reshapes it - from an Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a Jewish-Arab one, and even a Western-Muslim one. Such a conflict, backed by the global Jihad movement and Khomeinist Iran, has neither a solution nor an end.

Hamas received the territories due to the generosity of Israel, which was its custodian until it transferred them to another trustee, the Fatah-based PLO. Israel took the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt and gave them to Yasser Arafat, who abused his trust and bequeathed his legacy to Hamas. The secularists did not moderate the religious, and now Fatah is liable to resume terror attacks in order to compete with Hamas in belligerence.

Israel's existential struggle until 1967 stemmed from the proximity of its population centers to Arab armies, with their air forces and tank corps. But the Six Day War resulted in Israel's occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

From this position of strength, Israel made three fateful mistakes: Yitzhak Rabin's first government gave up the chance to return the West Bank to Jordan's King Hussein; succeeding governments embittered Hussein's life until he disengaged from the West Bank; and the second Rabin government decided to talk with the Palestinians, not with local leaders, who could have reached a realistic compromise. Instead, he engaged Arafat and his Tunis crowd in the Oslo process, which collapsed like a house of cards under the illusion of a Palestinian government that would be free of both terror and corruption.

And gradually, all the governments forgot the original reason for retaining the territories until peace was achieved - as a buffer zone against an invasion - and began seeding them with settlements.

Ariel Sharon and his deputy, Ehud Olmert, gave into American pressure and allowed Hamas to be elected. Condoleezza Rice's threats against Hamas now are barren and risible: If she indeed absolves Israel of the promise she wrested from it of increasing Palestinian freedom of movement, the Palestinians will suffer for a while, but only until the Americans get used to the new situation. And what Hamas ceases to get from other states it will obtain from Iranian oil revenues and Saudi protection money.

Rabin brought Arafat. Arafat brought Benjamin Netanyahu and Sharon to power. Sharon brought Hamas. And Hamas will yet bring back Netanyahu - and the lion shall lie down with the lamb.