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On Thursday, for the second time this week, a group of Palestinian terrorists took over the European Union's offices in Gaza. Armed with rifles, the terrorists demanded an official apology from the Danish government for caricatures of Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper last September. At the same time as the EU offices were commandeered, another group of terrorists in Gaza issued an ultimatum: Either Denmark and the EU issue formal apologies for the publication of the cartoons by nightfall, or the terrorists will begin kidnapping Europeans in Gaza.
It is notable that in the wake of Hamas's electoral victory last week, the Palestinians have placed themselves alongside al-Qaida as the "guardians" of Islamic honor. It says a great deal both about who the Palestinians are and what it is that Israel and the Western world are up against.
At its base, the Muslim furor over the cartoons is part and parcel of their culture war against the West. The Muslims pushing the issue believe that non-Muslims ought to behave obsequiously towards all things Islamic, while the Muslims are free to demonize Jews as monkeys and pigs and accuse Christians of being idolaters. According to the rules of their culture war, if Western societies refuse to behave in accordance with their dictates, the Muslims have the right and duty to attack them.
That is, the culture war that is being waged by the Arabs and Muslims in response to the Danish cartoons is an assault on the West's right to live and govern in accordance with its values. It is an assault on the notions of freedom and self-determination themselves. That the Palestinians should now be placing themselves at the head of the charge against freedom and self-determination should serve as an indicator of who they are and what they stand for. But alas, it is not.
While, under US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's incompetent gaze, the Iranians quickly assemble the capability to build nuclear bombs at will, Hamas is directing its efforts towards building an Iranian enclave in Judea and Samaria. Due to Rice's insistence on reenacting her predecessor Colin Powell's failed policy of seeking UN backing for American actions in the Middle East, Iran is being allowed to achieve independent nuclear capabilities. At the same time, over the long term, Hamas's Iranian enclave in Judea and Samaria could well cause Israel's collapse and thus mitigate the ayatollahs' need to destroy Israel with nuclear warheads.
Hamas's victory at the polls last week was just the beginning of the jihadist group's takeover of Judea and Samaria. In the coming weeks and months, as Western aid continues to flow into the Palestinian Authority's coffers, together with supplemental aid from Iran, Hamas will have the means to gain control of the Western trained and heavily armed Palestinian security forces. The forces' loyalty will be bought simply: with the payment of their salaries. As it secures its control over Judea and Samaria, Hamas will adopt modes of operation similar to those adopted by their terrorist colleagues in Fatah, although it will be far more popular than Fatah ever was.
The main truth that Hamas's rise to power has exposed is not that Palestinian society is perhaps the most genocidal society on the face of the planet. That has been clear for all to see for the past five and a half years of the enormously popular Palestinian terror war against Israel. What Hamas's ascent to power has uncovered is that in everything related to the Palestinian conflict with Israel, the policies of the US-led international community, like the policies of the current Israeli government, are predicated on myths rather than facts.
Hamas's election last week should have put paid to the US plan to resolve the Palestinian conflict with Israel by establishing a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. After all, in a public relations blitz, Hamas leaders in Damascus, Khaled Mashal and Musa Abu Marzook, explained in op-eds in the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers that their goal remains the destruction of Israel. And yet, the US has just agreed with the EU, Russia and the UN that they will continue to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, Rice is now pressuring Israel to continue its tax revenue transfers to the PA.
Indeed, rather than simply cut off all support for the Palestinians, who daily humiliate them, attack Israel and just voted al-Qaida's sister organization into power, the US is negotiating with Hamas. In his State of the Union address this week, US President George W. Bush laid out conditions for Hamas to be accepted by America. Bush's decision to set out conditions for Hamas to fulfill, rather than simply identifying it as the jihadist terror group it is, makes clear that far from isolating al-Qaida's ally, Bush is bargaining with it.
Essentially, what Bush and his European counterparts are saying is that they expect Hamas to behave like Fatah - that is with duplicity. For its part, Hamas has been a willing negotiating partner. While giving no ground to the Americans and the Europeans on the substance of its aim to destroy Israel, Hamas leaders are offering "long-term cease-fires" and have adopted Fatah's platform of destroying Israel in stages.
THE QUESTION that arises from the US maneuvering with Hamas is why is the Bush Administration acting as it is? The source of Washington's awkward posture towards Hamas is that over the past three years, Bush has allowed his clear strategy of winning the war on global terror by bringing freedom to the Arab world to be subverted. In the case of the Palestinians, on June 24, 2002, the president laid out what the Palestinians needed to do in order to receive US support for statehood. Bush conditioned US support for the Palestinians on their disavowal of terrorism and destruction of terror groups; their embrace of liberal values; the conduct of a genuine campaign to root out corruption; and above all, a genuine Palestinian acceptance of Israel's right to exist accompanied by an end of the PA's indoctrination of their people to seek Israel's destruction.
Over succeeding months, Bush's clear policy was denuded of its substance by the State Department, the Israeli Left and the EU. In December 2002, Bush accepted the road map plan for peace in spite of the fact that it flew in the face of the policy he had laid out in June. Rather than officially break with his democratization and liberalization policy towards the Palestinians, Bush pretended that the road map advanced that policy.
Similarly, while during the initial phases of his post-September 11 policymaking, Bush was clear that democratization of the Arab world meant the embrace of freedom by Arab societies, as the US became bogged down by the terror war in Iraq, the president pretended that liberalization and the conduct of open elections were the same thing. That is, he conflated elections with democracy.
But the open elections that were just held in the Palestinian Authority proved that the conduct of elections and the establishment of democracy are two separate things. The Palestinian elections led to Islamization, not democratization. There will be no freedom for the Palestinians at the end of this process. And by dictating conditions for Hamas to fulfill, Bush now ignores the fact that the Palestinians elected Hamas because it is what it is, not because they want Hamas to be something it is not.
For their part, for 14 years successive Israeli governments have replaced policymaking with myth-making. While the Americans do this to placate the Europeans and the Arabs, Israel's governments build their policies on fantasies to gain short-term political advantages on the home front.
Today, the Western world is more or less cognizant of the fact that the Muslim and Arab worlds - or large swathes of them - are waging a war against the West. It is true that to varying degrees Western societies all lie to themselves about what the fact that this global jihad is being waged demands of them. And yet, few leaders deny today that radical Islam is a threat to Western civilization.
PERVERSELY, WHILE the rest of the West is awake to the threat of jihad, Israel's government remains stubbornly asleep. Although all jihadist groups and societies daily declare that the destruction of Israel is one of the first aims of their war on the West, the Israeli government itself is largely in denial of both the fact that Israel is a prime target in a larger Islamic jihad and of the fact that the Palestinians see themselves as the flag bearers of global jihad in their war against Israel.
Rather than accept the reality or Israel's predicament, the current Israeli government, like its predecessors, insists that the real "root" of the global jihad being waged against it is the presence of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria or the absence of Palestinian statehood in general. So it was that in the shadow of the September 11 attacks, rather than declare Israel's key role in thwarting the aims of the jihadists, Ariel Sharon sent his foreign minister Shimon Peres to the UN where Peres told a befuddled world body that the Palestinian jihad against Israel was completely unrelated to the global jihad. Lecturing the world leaders, Peres waxed romantically over the need for a Palestinian state to be established and for a new New World Order, based on nanotechnology and the Internet to be formed.
Currently, Olmert is ignoring the threat that has crossed Israel's doorstep by designing a diversionary campaign - not against Hamas, but against his fellow Israelis. So it is that rather than contend with the fact that the international community is moving towards welcoming Hamas as its newest member, Olmert declared war on the religious Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria.
Olmert's decision to send a force of 6,000 policemen to the community of Amona on Wednesday in order to destroy nine homes was an act of deliberate provocation. His aim was to divert the attention of Israeli voters from the Hamas state in Gaza and the Hamas state-in-the-making in Judea and Samaria by providing them with pictures of settlers battling riot police. This was necessary because Olmert's only policy regarding Hamas is to transfer Judea and Samaria to their control.
In light of this, Olmert and his associates desperately strive for the Israeli electorate to ignore the fact that the only real issue on the agenda today is whether Hamas will rule over Judea and Samaria or the Israeli military will rule over Judea and Samaria. As Israelis learned from 2000 to 2002, when the IDF cedes control over Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, life for Israelis becomes impossible. The security of Tel Aviv is dependent on Israel maintaining control of Jenin, Nablus, Kalkilya and Tulkarm. The security of Jerusalem is dependent on Israeli control of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron.
Given the strategic threat that Hamas control of Judea and Samaria poses to Israel, Olmert's fervent wish is for them to postpone their takeover until after the elections, allowing him to continue his diversionary campaign against his own people unfettered by the weight of reality.