Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas victory is good news - if you're into war. 

Hamas victory is good news
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | January 29, 2006

Read the article

The interesting part is not that "Palestinian society is deeply dysfunctional" and that we will be forced to deal with that openly. We've known that Palestinian society is corrupt and dysfunctional for a long time, regardless of who was in charge. That's not the message to take away from this particular bit of history. The message is that we are losing the battle for Israel.

Let's be clear: it's bullshit to claim that you will not do business with a political party that maintains an armed terrorist wing - because it is simply not true. Just ask Sein Fein. Sein Fein is a direct corollary to Hamas, and has operated in exactly the same mode, with very similar aims. Never mind that the Irish don't realistically believe they can kill all the English. The conflict in Northern Ireland is a land dispute with religious overtones and the terrorist groups that violently expressed the people's will were eventually converted to political groups. Despite expositions for the last twenty years that Parliament would never negotiate with terrorists, the Brits discovered that the only way to make the Troubles end was to deal with the political group that actually had clout within it's own community - and that group was Sein Fein, no matter how unpleasant it was deemed to be that they were the mouth organ of the IRA.

The same will happen with Hamas, because we don't choose the Palestinians representation - they choose it for themselves, either democratically as they did in the most recent election, or clandestinely as they have done for the last twenty years through underground support. You cannot successfully campaign for change from outside a society by claiming that the core of their ideological belief is hostile and therefore unworthy of communication. The Palestinians will force you to deal with the political questions they want to deal with, one way or another.

And what political questions are those? As demonstrated by official statement in the last week, Palestinians aren't interested in long-term accommodation with Israel. The Palestinians want a contiguous Palestinian state, pre-67 borders and a right to return every Palestinian refugee living in camps outside Palestine. They have set goals far beyond anything Israel could possibly agree to and they have held on to those goals through every permutation of compromise and negotiation. These demands, made yesterday by the leader of Hamas, could have been written by Yasser Arafat twenty five years ago. The only difference is that today, condemnation unto death of Israel by Palestinian leadership has become de rigueur as opposed to shocking.

The problem is that you can't marginalize these issues as 'terrorist' or 'extremist' aims and refuse to address them - the result of this election is that the Palestinians are saying loudly to the world "the only way to deal with us is on our terms, not on yours." The demonstrated truth is that moderate Palestinians, willing to live within the boundaries of a world determined by the presence of a Jewish state, are a mythical population created by American politicians. Real Palestinians have consistently rejected any political reform that would make an accommodation possible and this latest election is simply another permutation of that rejection.

A small, radicalized group with the will of the people behind them can be just as powerful as the largest state and even more so, these small groups are proving they can prevail in massive conflicts despite an infinite arsenal of resources arrayed against them by nation states. This is the lesson of Nablus and Ramalla and Mogadishu. This is the lesson of Baghdad, the one that Saddam claimed would make our mission in Iraq impossible. This is the lesson that the Russians learned in Afghanistan, and the lesson that Al Qaeda is currently teaching the US yet again all over the world. This is the lesson that the Palestinians have absorbed through two intifadas and forty years of occupation. It remains to be seen who will prevail in all of these conflicts.

Accommodation with the Palestinians may or may not be palatable to us, but it will never satisfy them: they want all of Israel, they want the Jews dead and gone, and they will not stop until that aim is met. If that weren't true, a moderate like Abbas would have been able to have some influence over the culture of the people if not over the actual political organization in which he is involved. The people must decide that they can live with the Jews, the people must decide they are no longer interested in a culture of hate. That's hard, so hard it may well be impossible.

My prediction: eventually, there will be another war - or rather, this one will simply continue to roil until it boils over. Either way, peace in the Middle East is not forthcoming any time soon.

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