There are off-the-record sources saying West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Americans he wanted Israel’s blockade of Gaza to continue. Abbas denies it, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

After all, if Israel lifts the blockade, Hamas will be able to tell Palestinians: “We chased the Zionists out of Gaza with resistance, with jihad, and look at the West Bank – they’re everywhere, taking our land, standing over us with their guns. The collaborators Abbas and Fayyad have to beg ‘Mr. Bibi’ to lift a few checkpoints, and then they’re expected to say thank you.”

Which Palestinian will be able to argue with Hamas? In principle, I want the blockade of Gaza to end. I’m not worried about shiploads of weapons coming in – there are shiploads of weapons coming into Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. and we do just fine. At any rate, Hamas has already brought in thousands of rockets through the tunnels, some can already hit Tel Aviv, and there are lots more on the way.

No, what worries me most about lifting the blockade is that we will also be lifting the Hamasniks even higher, while undercutting Abbas and Fayyad even worse than we’ve been doing already for years. This is the stupidest, most self-defeating strategy anyone could invent.

We’re looking at a line of “freedom flotillas” as far as the eye can see, and each one is going to do wonders for Hamas’s cause – in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well as Gaza.

Meanwhile, we’re leaving Abbas and Fayyad with a handful of nothing.

Our prime minister tells them, “Come on and negotiate,” yet the “Palestinian state” he offers them comes with so many restrictions that it’s actually no more than local autonomy with a flag. He goes back on a decade of territorial offers, from Ehud Barak’s to Ehud Olmert’s, then pretends to wonder why Abbas doesn’t jump at the chance to talk peace.

ISRAEL HAS never faced Palestinian leaders even remotely as moderate, as businesslike, as demonstratively anti-terrorism as Abbas and Fayyad.

The alternative to them is Hamas.

And by offering Abbas and Fayyad nothing, Israel is helping Hamas win.

This is worse than missing an opportunity. This is dodo bird time.

There is only one way Israel can convince the world to let it maintain the blockade on Gaza, and only one way Israel can justify it morally: By moving as urgently as possible to true Palestinian statehood in the West Bank under Abbas’s and Fayyad’s leadership, with the ultimate goal being for them to take over Gaza, too.

And after 43 years of occupation, moving urgently means starting the process of relinquishing settlements on the far side of the security barrier right now. It means recognizing Palestine on the basis of the ’67 borders with land swaps and a capital in Arab east Jerusalem – but without the right of return – and negotiating the details, including international custody over Jerusalem’s “holy basin,” with Abbas.

The governments of the democratic world, and many of the nondemocratic world, will support this goal because it’s been the international consensus solution to the Mideast conflict since the Six Day War.

Ending the occupation in the West Bank is the only answer to the Iranian and Lebanese aid ships sailing for Gaza, and the others to follow.

Empowering Palestinian moderates is the only answer to Hamas.

There is no other alternative to the blackening future that’s staring this country in the face.

The choice is Hamas or Abbas. If we don’t choose very soon, the choice will be made for us.

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