Right now, there are two subjects that bore me silly. One is anything to do with Ariel Sharon's condition, which, if not permanently vegetative, is certainly currently vegetative. What the doctors knew (or did not know) and when they knew it really doesn't interest me any more--it's all irrelevant. I hope he gets pneumonia soon and dies, since the living death he currently is in has only one advantage: he's not suffering. Give him a grand funeral and let's get on with the business of everyday living in Israel, or in other words, back to the battlefield.
The other topic is the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections. Was it really the incredible surprise the journalists and politician are claiming? If so, I am the only unsurprised person around, which I find a bit hard to believe. It was inevitable. The only way Fatah could have won was to rig the ballot and stuff the ballot boxes. The only people who loathe Fatah more than the Israelis are the Palestinians, because of the corruption and the internal terrorism of Arafat's machine.
Hamas has two options: one hard, one easy. It doesn't take a lot of savvy either to guess which one they will take.
If they really want the best for the people, they will (probably violently because I don't see any other option) disarm Fatah gunmen, and the other militias like Al Aqsa, crush corruption, begin concrete improvements in Palestinian life, and show their constituents and the rest of the world that they are responsible and mature. If they do this, it doesn't really matter whether they officially "renounce terrorism" and "recognize Israel's right to exist". But taking the road of internal reform is dangerous and difficult. It's so much easier to let the existing mess simmer on and try to shift the Palestinians' attention to the external enemy once again--make a scapegoat of Israel for all their own, and the previous regime's, shortcomings. In Abba Eban's memorable phrase, they will once again not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Frankly, the Hamas victory will have less long-term impact on the Middle East and world politics than the pundits think. The big change will only come when the West can get its mind around the simple but unthinkable fact that it is at war with an implacable enemy who will not be appeased: Islam. This is so politically incorrect for a civilization which insists on religious tolerance at all costs that it will take a lot more September 11th-like attacks or Iran will have to nuke Vienna or Paris before it can get its act together and finally see that the entire Islamic world is its adversary.
Sharon's legacy to Israel is the disengagement from Gaza and the security fence. Israel is withdrawing, with great pain, to defensible borders and hunkering down. The euphoria I remember so well in 1978 with the first Camp David talks has given way finally to a grim realization--which should have come much earlier--that at least another generation will have to pass before the Palestinians realize they have no option but to live with us.
In a small way, I think there is reason to hope. The average Palestinian man and woman in the street has actually made a statement by voting Fatah out of power--that it wants constructive change, clean government, a better life. To interpret the election results as a victory for radical Islam is mistaken. It was a vote against a regime that caused its own people simply too much suffering, not a vote to go to war again. One hopes the leaders of Hamas have the sense to see it.
|Your Brain is Green|