Waiting for Al-Qaida

Israel's refusal to talk with Hamas will only strengthen Palestinian radicals.

For years they taught us that negotiations should not be held with a non-democratic regime because it is unstable - signing an agreement one day and disappearing the next, because that nation does not stand behind it. But here in the territories and under harsh occupation, the Palestinian people managed to conduct a democratic election campaign, the most democratic in the Western world. However, Israel does not really approve of the results - Acting PM Ehud Olmert wanted Fatah and got Hamas.

What to do? Turn Hamas into a monster that wants to destroy Israel, because after all, you need to eliminate monsters, and make sure the Palestinian people understand that in order to receive food they have to return to Fatah, which has suddenly become a Lover of Zion. The policy now is, "We won't speak with Hamas" - just as we once swore that we would never speak with the PLO. Israel will therefore stop transferring money to the Palestinian Authority and will make it difficult for goods and workers to cross into Israel, so that they'll learn a lesson. How did Dov Weissglas put it at a meeting of Kadima leaders? "We'll cause the Palestinians to diet, not to die," and the participants burst into laughter.

The "Hamas team" that Olmert established seeks the formation of a Hamas-led parliament as a process signifying the burial of the Oslo Accords. This is a slightly confusing argument in light of the fact that Olmert himself was the one who recommended in 1996 that then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu open the Western Wall tunnel, thereby leading to the territories going up in smoke, the ties that had been built until then with Yasser Arafat be destroyed, and the hopes generated by the Oslo Accords be exterminated.

Afterward, the government continued to build the settlements at full speed, and announced when the second intifada broke out that the PA is an entity that supports terror - and destroyed it and Arafat.

Mahmoud Abbas, who replaced Arafat as PA chairman, was the most comfortable leader from Israel's perspective, the most moderate possible. But Israel got rid of him, too, as a leader. It didn't provide him with any achievements - not an improvement of the hard life in the territories, not the removal of checkpoints, not the release of prisoners, not the dismantling of outposts. Even the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was done in a unilateral manner, without speaking to Abbas. When Abbas spent months asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he was put off, but Israel knew to say in a voice full of compassion: He is a weak leader.

And when the Palestinians were convinced that the suffering and distress were increasing and that the PLO was not succeeding in advancing the establishment of a state, they voted for a more radical leadership. This is what was seared in their consciousness: The more they are tormented, the stronger they become. The Israeli government decision not to transfer to them the money from taxes and fees that it collects on their behalf, for a fee, stems from the same cruel and mistaken line of thought: If it will be worse for the Palestinians, if their economic situation becomes harsher, they will capitulate, topple Hamas and ingratiate themselves before the Israeli occupier.

However, Israel should already be familiar with the Palestinians' steadfastness. The poverty there is already terrible today. Forty percent of the population lives off an income of less than $2 a day, a quarter of the children suffer from malnutrition, and the national product per capita is only $1,300 a year - 1/14 of the quality of living in Israel. How much lower can they go?

Abbas said yesterday that if the tax funds are not transferred, the PA will be in a severe financial crisis. But an alternative solution can always be found. Instead of the money - which is essentially theirs - coming from Israel, they will receive donations from the Arab world and Iran, and thus the Iranian influence will be strengthened, contrary to Israel's interest.

Olmert talks about a terrorist authority that endangers Israel's existence. But the facts are that in the last year, Hamas carried out one terror attack. All the other terror attacks were carried out by Fatah or Islamic Jihad.

And thus does it transpire that in the meantime, the one violating the agreements - specifically the 1994 Paris economic protocol - is the government of Israel, while the leaders of Hamas are acting responsibly. While the head of the Shin Bet security service talks exaggeratedly about a strategic threat, they are talking about transforming Hamas into a political organization, repeatedly say they are prepared to fulfill all the agreements, and are even proposing a cease-fire for 15 to 20 years in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines - and this is an opening position to allow negotiations to begin.

But apparently Hamas is not radical enough for Israel. It is possible to discover a glimmer that raises the hope of an agreement. That's why Israel is returning to the policy in which it has specialized: destroying the existing leadership so that a more extreme leadership will replace it. This is how Israel destroyed the PA, Arafat and Abbas - and then Hamas arrived.

And so Israel will continue imposing sanctions and a political boycott, and the radicals, such as Islamic Jihad, will become stronger. And when the Palestinian nation comes to the conclusion that neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad have managed to improve the conditions, it will turn to the most radical of all, to Al-Qaida. Then Israel will have achieved its goal: to continue to live by the sword for eternity.