Despair and clear thinking at the most recent round

Netanyahu deals with Hamas – whether in deals via the Egyptians, dollars in suitcases from Qatar, or in bombs – because he prefers this to dealing with the Palestinian Authority.

By
March 31, 2019 04:53
3 minute read.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh next to his destroyed office (REUTERS/Handout)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh next to his destroyed office (REUTERS/Handout). (photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)

 
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Another round with Hamas. So familiar that veteran reporters were predicting what would happen next (“They will rocket Sderot. We will escalate targets to be bombed”) as events played out in real time.

More of the same which has yielded nothing to either side. Another round of “severe” hits on Hamas targets. Does anyone believe this will mean the end of their rocketing; of their incendiary balloons to incinerate our fields, forests and wildlife; of multi-colored balloons, with clown faces, the better to attract children, tied to explosives, to an anti-tank missile head, where the explosives are located? To violent charging of the border fence, with grenades and Molotov cocktails?

There are some who argue there is some supposed military solution to this – that we need to “vanquish” Hamas, carpet bomb Gaza (God forbid). I am not even sure they mean it or would do that – that this is not the stuff of manipulation and demagoguery by bombastic politicians whose ambitions far outweigh their abilities or proven performance in office. But I sure would not want to test the hypothesis.

And if we did “vanquish” Hamas, then what? Islamic Jihad? The various Iranian-backed “fronts” to “liberate Palestine”? (Not that Hamas is not Iranian backed.) No one is even suggesting that Israel take over Gaza (speaking of “been there, done that”).

There are others – Netanyahu and Likud – who maintain that what we are doing is what we must do, just more of the same, harder, better.

The implication is that there is no alternative.

That is a lie.

Netanyahu deals with Hamas – whether in deals via the Egyptians, dollars in suitcases from Qatar, or in bombs – because he prefers this to dealing with the Palestinian Authority. To do the latter is to say the end goal is some kind of Palestinian state, and he’d rather deal with – and empower – Hamas.

That is the choice here and we should be clear.

There are no good options. The PA is a pervasively corrupt, abusive, organization that oppresses, suppresses and exploits the people it governs. There is nothing whatever to look up to in it. In his corruption, Mahmoud Abbas almost makes Benjamin Netanyahu look like an amateur.

Abbas is on his last legs, physically and politically. It is not at all clear that he could deliver on – implement – an agreement, if he did ever agree to one. And there is no great hope that he would agree to one. The PA, under Arafat and him, turned down deals much more extensive than any they would get now. No Israeli leader will agree to the “right of return” unless this is made symbolic. But this is what Arafat and Abbas would not accept, even when dividing Jerusalem was offered, which it won’t be now. We have no idea who the successor to Abbas will be, or whether an opportunity will arise when a new PA head takes over.


So, no illusions and no naiveté here.

On the other hand, these are the options. Not ones we would wish, the ones that exist.

Serious people who’ve been involved in high-level negotiations with the PA in the past, Tzipi Livni, for one, who is no pushover, felt there were grounds to engage the PA, and that this is far better than empowering Hamas. The more so now, since Sunni states are willing to partner with Israel in such negotiations, in shared fear of Iran.

Benny Gantz tiptoes around saying this when he criticizes Netanyahu for his lack of strategy regarding Gaza, and for empowering Hamas, and when he says we need to explore avenues for peace, making every effort, in a regional context – meaning, in conjunction with the Sunni states. He’s not going to come out and say what Livni did. But there are no “avenues for peace” without the PA.

Labor does say this, pretty much. So does Meretz.

We just need to be clear about what Netanyahu is doing, if not saying.

He prefers to deal with Hamas.

Election in two weeks.

The writer is a Jewish historian, and winner of a National Jewish Book Award.

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