Great editorial in today’s New York Times asking the obvious question: If Benjamin Netanyahu can cut a deal with Hamas of the magnitude he did to win the release of Gilad Shalit, why can’t he pursue a more comprehensive deal with Palestinian moderates such as Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad over the West Bank? Money quote:
One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas — which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and, on Tuesday, vowed to take even more hostages — why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank?
The answer, of course, is that the Israeli right has always found it preferable to deal with Hamas than Fatah because the former are less of a threat to the Iron Wall/Greater Israel project.
Israel looked the other way, perhaps even encouraged the rise of Hamas, during the first Intifada as a counterweight to the PLO. Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2004 was, in the words of his advisor Dov Weisglass in Ha’aretz, designed to put the peace process in “formaldehyde” and take the pressure off of the settlements in the West Bank.
“And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”
And now, this deal with Hamas after Netanyahu’s sustained campaign against Abbas’ bid for United Nations recognition of the State of Palestine.
Bottom-line: The Israeli right would rather have Greater Israel and war than a two state solution and peace. Netanyahu’s deal is fully consistent with that historical pattern.