A Hamas win in West Bank election spells trouble for Obama’s peace posture
JERUSALEM — Policymakers who have an idee fixe, i.e. a political obsession, tend to ignore or play down contradictory factors.
President Obama’s advocacy of two states living side by side in peace, which well-meaning people in and out of Israel as well as many if not most Palestinians, support, is a case in point.
His administration and its point man in the Middle East, George Mitchell, knowingly disregard the negative impact of the Gaza Strip’s uncompromising Hamas regime on the so-called peace process.
Hamas not only took power in mid-2006 in a ruthless coup d’etat less than a year after Israel foolishly withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza without any strings attached, but also expelled the Palestinian Authority’s officials from its domain. It also purged its domain of the Authority’s Fatah supporters who, ostensibly at least, recognize Israel and are willing to co-exist with it.
As a result, more than a third of the Palestinian population that was earmarked for self-determination cannot be included in the negotiations intended to achieve that goal. Hamas rejects the very concept of Israeli statehood, contending instead that all of Palestine, which includes Israel, is an Islamic religious legacy and therefore must be under Islamic rule.
So if President Bush’s metaphysical “dream” or “vision” of Palestine and Israel as good neighbors, which President Obama enthusiastically adopted, and which he is determined to realize and institutionalize within the next two years — prior to the 2012 presidential election — the Palestinian entity will consist only of the West Bank.
In sum, there will be three political segments within the geographical boundaries of Palestine as they were delineated unilaterally shortly after World War I when it came under the control of Great Britain: a West Bank state, Israel and a Gaza Strip state.
Hamas is unlikely to fade away during the two-year interim envisaged by Obama. Backed by Iran, which also rejects Israel’s right to exist, Hamas will try to be the frontrunner in the West Bank’s election in January, just as it was last time the Palestinians went to the polls.
If that happens and Hamas wins that election, enabling it to form the next West Bank government, the Obama administration will no longer have a Palestinian partner in the negotiations.
In addition to this nightmare, there is the depraved tactic of kidnapping Israeli soldiers and holding them for ransom — not financial, but human: the release by Israel of Palestinians imprisoned for terrorist activities. Cpl. Gilad Shalit is the current victim of this foul Hamas policy.
Since his abduction in June 2006, the shadowy Hamas-backed outfit that plucked him out of his unit’s military position on Israeli territory (after digging a tunnel through which it was able to penetrate without being detected) has not budged from its opening price: at least 1,000 terrorists — 450 in the first batch and 550 in the second.
As if this were not enough, Hamas’ expatriate leader, Khaled Mash’al, bragged, “there will be many more Shalits until all of our prisoners are set free!” He proclaimed there would be more kidnappings of Israeli soldiers in the months to come.
That certainly is a dire if not tragic prospect. Incredibly, his arrogant rhetoric, proclaimed in Damascus, Syria, where he is based, was voiced when the first furtive step toward an eventual tradeoff was taken: the release of 20 Palestinian women prisoners last week in return for a video clip showing that Shalit is alive and well.
In view of all this, it would be wise for Obama and Mitchell to declare that there can and will be no progress toward a two-state solution as long as the “Palestinian territories” designated after the Six-Day War and earmarked for the Palestinian Authority in 1993 are reunified and Hamas gets out of the political picture. It also would be advisable for the Obama Administration to warn that the two-state scenario and a prisoner release will be hamstrung if not scuttled if Hamas seizes additional Israeli soldiers and holds them hostage for human ransom.
(Jay Bushinsky, an Israel-based political columnist, can be reached at Jay@actcom.co.il.)