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Netanyahu cuts his deals with Hamas, not Fatah, and here’s why

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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.

Michael Desch

Michael Desch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008.

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26 Responses

  1. seafoid on October 19, 2011, 11:00 am

    Israel is running out of time to play off Hamas against Fatah. The world is sick of the charade. It’s pointless and the neighbours are getting uppity. Israel can’t run a deception based on bad faith indefinitely.

  2. Richard Witty on October 19, 2011, 11:03 am

    Israel has succeeded militarily/politically by a divide and conquer strategy, dancing between perceived threats.

    Netanyahu regards the political threat as more compelling for a while, and instead has endeavored to divide Hamas from Fatah.

    If they sincerely do not seek partisan advantage over the other, and instead focus on their unity, and pursue an agenda non-violently but coherently, they will eventually succeed.

    There will be no divide and conquer strategy that works.

    The dissing of Abbas by self-appointed and very vain political partisans, is a disaster for Palestine. Whereas, he gathered and controlled the momentum of history until the more militant efforts of the flotilla, then BDS accompanied by single-state agitation, it took away that control of history, dismissed it.

    Replacing a proposal with the prospect of anarchy (in the ruckus, chaotic sense, not in the mutual aid sense).

    • Dan Crowther on October 19, 2011, 11:45 am

      Holy Moly – I totally agree with Witty:

      If they sincerely do not seek partisan advantage over the other, and instead focus on their unity, and pursue an agenda non-violently but coherently, they will eventually succeed.

      There will be no divide and conquer strategy that works.

      — Seconded.

      • LeaNder on October 19, 2011, 1:15 pm

        with this squeezed in passage too?

        The dissing of Abbas by self-appointed and very vain political partisans, is a disaster for Palestine. Whereas, he gathered and controlled the momentum of history until the more militant efforts of the flotilla, then BDS accompanied by single-state agitation, it took away that control of history, dismissed it.

        Indirectly he seems to be saying, Abbas would have won already hadn’t there been Gaza flottilas, BDS and single-state-agitation, they are the ones to blame.

      • Dan Crowther on October 19, 2011, 1:58 pm


        No, definitely not. haha.

      • LeaNder on October 20, 2011, 8:45 am

        One of Richard’s most pervasive patterns is “balancing” sensible statements with a collective condemnation of a large part of the Mondoweiss readership, under changing names–the earliest I remember was “right/left posse”. I doubt he would be constantly under attack, if this wasn’t the case, although it may be too late now. Given his peculiar defensive activities of almost everything Israel does against it’s better interests.

        vain political partisans
        militant efforts of the flottila
        BDS accompanied by single-state agitation

        Richard needs the “concept of the enemy” (image of the perceived enemy) which is congruent with whomever Israel declares one, Just as he constantly needs to fill it in accordingly, Hamas, Iran, BDS, flotilla, or whoever doesn’t surrender to his/Israel’s “superior” demands.

        Interestingly Norman Finkelstein belongs into his declared enemies camp, take a close look at what Finkelstein said in this context. I don’t have the time to read his comments here in this context.

      • Richard Witty on October 20, 2011, 9:12 am

        Its not a “concept of enemy” that I describe, but insistence that dissent seek to become actually effective, rather than just loud, or demand conformity to politically correct reasoning.

      • anonymouscomments on October 19, 2011, 1:41 pm

        I agree as well. For a second I wondered if his account was hijacked or the handle was spelled differently.

        Some things we can agree on. Nice. Let’s find some actions and policies we can also agree on. Can Israelis start criticizing the obviously counterproductive actions in the West Bank? …I know a majority have issues…. But bury it with tribalism and false “patriotism”.

    • anonymouscomments on October 19, 2011, 4:33 pm

      “The dissing of Abbas by self-appointed and very vain political partisans, is a disaster for Palestine. Whereas, he gathered and controlled the momentum of history until the more militant efforts of the flotilla, then BDS accompanied by single-state agitation, it took away that control of history, dismissed it.”

      I overlooked the second BS sentence…. That is just delusional and there is nothing militant about BDS or the flotillas. Some people who wanted to resist boarding in international waters RESISTED violently, presumably in the face of Israeli violence. The illegal blockade with the buffer zone, and the 3 mile coastline allowance… those are enforced in a militant, deadly manner.

  3. pabelmont on October 19, 2011, 11:25 am

    Israel would rather have war than a 2SS (or 1SS) peace? But it would really rather have neither, and the tickles it sometimes gets from Gaza are not “war”, not even close. No war and no peace means continuing siege and apartheid. THAT is what USA and Israel love.

  4. Donald on October 19, 2011, 11:54 am

    The NYT editorial was mostly fatuous. Netanyahu isn’t interested in a two state solution that Palestinians could accept, so it is silly to ask Abbas to sit down with him when the US government acts as Israel’s lawyer and won’t exert any pressure on Israel to be reasonable. If the NYT wrote about that then we’d be getting somewhere.

    And they wrote the usual Israelo-centric crap. They feel joy for the Israelis–obviously Palestinian feelings mean nothing. They feel concern for the Israelis worried about Palestinian violence–again, no concern at all for Palestinians worried about Israeli violence. They don’t care whether any of the Palestinian prisoners should have been in prison. They don’t care whether any Israelis should be in prison. But that’s our “liberal” press at work.

  5. Shmuel on October 19, 2011, 12:00 pm

    Netanyahu cut a deal with Hamas, because Hamas had something he wanted. Abbas has nothing Netanyahu wants.

    • ritzl on October 19, 2011, 12:30 pm

      Spot on. And now neither does Hamas.

      It’ll be interesting to see what new forms of intransigence and/or aggression that leads to. Sharon withdrew from Gaza to focus on colonizing the WB. Now that the door has been completely shut on Gaza, and Occupation makes the PA incapable of doing/enforcing anything bilaterally with Israel, it’s open season on WB land and resources.

      The only hopeful thing is that now the Israelis can’t cry “But Shalit!” when it’s pointed out that they just arrested 100 more Palestinians and still keep 8000-9000 in prison indefinitely, for what that’s worth in the grand scheme of effecting possible just outcomes.

  6. piotr on October 19, 2011, 12:12 pm

    “Tickles” from Gaza come basically only when Israeli government has such a wish: kill some militants, get retaliation, kill some more… then escalate or de-escalate.

    Dissing Abbas and Fayyad is the center of Israeli policy: do not offer any meaningful concession, otherwise they would eventually need to do something about extemist settlements (and not so extemist). Extremists are part of the ruling coalition after all, and it very much seems that they differ from “moderate” elements of Likud and Kadima only by saying loudly what all of them think.

    In the long run, this may spell disaster, and the “long run” seems to be like 2-5 years now. Muslim countries of the region go through cycles of being more or less aligned, and between revulsion to Israel, democratization and decline of the Western influence, I think the cycle still progresses to a larger alignment. Crusaders were booted out during a relatively short period of regional unity under Salah-ed-Din. No number of friends in East/Central Europe, no amount of trade relation with South and East Asia, and not even American aid can save Israel from hot water if they sufficiently screw it up.

    Summary: Israeli elite very cleverly moves toward a disaster, because they think that those clever tactics can be continued forever. Keeping most popular moderate Palestinians in prison, dissing less popular moderate leaders of PA and giving Hamas a degree of popularity is all very clever in short to medium term.

    • pabelmont on October 19, 2011, 4:10 pm

      I agree that Israel mostly organizes the Gazan “tickles” by armed violence called “provocation” (and generally ignored, played down, or justified by USA MSM). But even if HAMAS or other Gazans take it into their heads to “tickle” Israel some more, if they stick to the sort of small arms they’ve been using so far, we’ll see no damage to Israel (and much damage to Gaza, as a matter of course) and if they go BIGGER, i hate to think what Israel will do by way of retaliation. I mean, look what Israel has done to Lebanon, 1982 and 2006, for no reason whatever, with no “provocation” except PLO peacefulness in 1982.

  7. Taxi on October 19, 2011, 12:15 pm

    They dealt with Hamas cuz they ain’t got no other frigging option.

    Who they tryna kid? They’re in a corner and shalit was the last political joker card that the despicable natanyahu had close to his hairy sweaty chest.

    And now he’s used it. Now israel’s bag of good luck is empty. And its bag of bad luck is still full and multiplying. Heh heh heh!

    • seafoid on October 19, 2011, 1:03 pm

      Agreed, Taxi. And the feelgood won’t last the week.

      • Taxi on October 19, 2011, 1:42 pm


        Apartheid israel’s getting weaker by the day – it knows it has to strike Iran and cause a regional war sooner than later before it gets any weaker. Rolling the DICE OF WAR is about as irresponsible a leadership as you can get. Shalit is a situ that natanyahu needed to work so that he’s not seen as symbolically abandoning an idf member while taking the idf to the biggest war in it’s loathsome existence.

        He’s gonna do it before our 2012 elections while he’s got that brown boy in the white house under his boot – and to give the most despicable right-wing nutjobs here an election whip to keep the dems outta office (‘dems are no good in times of war’, as the neocon propaganda goes).

        Natanyahu in other words thinks he’s smart enough to hit iran and simultaneously decide who gets to go into the white house in 2012.

        America’s fate is in natanyahu’s hands? Sure looks like the arrogant bastard thinks so.

        The doors of hell will be kicked wide open.

      • seafoid on October 19, 2011, 3:42 pm


        Have you seen this photo? Traumatised chidren in a mental hospital shelled by Israelis, 1982 Beirut

        That Kirya rocket barrage is a long time coming

      • lysias on October 19, 2011, 4:37 pm

        Speaking of rolling those dice of war, Adolf Hitler was one hell of a gambler.

        Scene: German Chancellery, morning of August 29, 1939, with Hitler about to invade Poland.

        Göring: Wir wollen doch das Vabanque-Spiel lassen [Let’s stop this insane gambling with disaster.]

        Hitler: Ich habe in meinem Leben immer Vabanque gespielt [All my life, I’ve always taken great risks.]

      • Taxi on October 19, 2011, 5:03 pm

        You’ll forgive me seafoid my friend if I don’t click on the link: I find images of children murdered or traumatized by infernal isreali violence way too distressing.

        Seen enough gruesome and disturbing pictorials of it already for forty odd years, hence my unforgiving jackhammer-loathing of everything zionist.

      • seafoid on October 19, 2011, 5:18 pm

        And then when they lost the war Hitler blamed it on the German people saying they were too stupid to deserve him.

      • thetumta on October 19, 2011, 8:27 pm

        Not really, he had no choice? Trapped by a history he had no say in. If not him, then the next stand in. Political and economic gravity can’t be ignored.

      • Walid on October 20, 2011, 2:03 am

        Seafoid, a bit of text about Israel’s precision bombing (that the US knew was about to happen)to go with the picture you posted; it defines the Israeli mentality. From Noam Chomsky:

        The Acre hospital was again hit on June 24, along with the Gaza hospital and the Islamic Rome for Invalids, where “the corridors were streaked with blood.” The hospitals were short of supplies because Israel was blocking tons of medical supplies ready for shipment in Cyprus, ~ccording to the International Red Cross.’121 By mid-August, the Islamic Home had been repeatedly shelled, only 15 of 200 staff members remained, and “several of the retarded children have died of starvation for lack of someone who has the time to feed them properly.” At the Palestinian Hospital for the Disabled (perhaps the same institution), “a visitor walking the gloomy corridors is approached by stumbling figures crying ‘Food, food’ in Arabic”; 800 patients remained, all mentally ill, half of them children, cared for by a dozen nurses.’122

        A French doctor reported witnessing “an intense Israeli bombing raid around and against the [Gaza) hospital, which forced the evacuation of the hospital at the time.”123 When the Beirut mental hospital was hit shortly after, “800 patients varying in condition from senile dementia to violent schizophrenia were released into the streets of Beirut.” The hospital, clearly marked by Red Cross flags, was hit by artillery and naval gunfire, including four phosphorus shells. Medical personnel reported that the patients, including children with mental problems whose nursery was hit by rockets that set beds on fire, were 90% Lebanese. No military target was found within a half-mile. The hospital was, however, “precariously located near the Palestinian ghettoes of Sabra and Shatila, frequent targets of Israeli bombardment,” though the “immediate surroundings are residentiar’ (i.e., not Palestinian slums).124

        Most of this was before the bombing escalated to new levels of violence in August. By August 4, 8 of the 9 Homes for Orphans in Beirut had been destroyed, attacked by cluster and phosphorus bombs. The last was hit by phosphorus and other rockets, though clearly marked by a red cross on the root after assurances by the International Red Cross that it would be spared.125 On August 4, the American University hospital was hit by shrapnel and mortar fire. A doctor “standing in bloodstained rags” said: “We have no more room.” The director reported: “It’s a carnage. There is nothing military anywhere near this hospital.”126 The hospital was the only one in Beirut to escape direct shelling, and even there, sanitary conditions had deteriorated to the point where half the intensive-care patients were lost and with 99% of the cases being trauma victims, there was no room for ordinary illnesses. “Drive down any street and you will almost always see a man or woman with a missing limb.”127

        … One of the most devastating critiques of Israeli military practices was provided inadvertently by an Israeli pilot who took part in the bombing, an Air Force major, who described the careful selection of targets and the precision bombing that made error almost impossible. Observing the effects, one can draw one’s own conclusions. He also expressed his own personal philosophy, saying “if you want to achieve peace, you should fight.” “Look at the American-Japanese war,” he added. “In order to achieve an end, they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”133

        Full article:

    • on October 19, 2011, 1:23 pm

      :)) Yeap , yeap, yeap.
      It looks like: “the seven years of plenty, in the land of Israel ,came to an end” and ” the seven years of bummer will begin”.
      But they don’t know it yet.
      But we do:)

  8. thetumta on October 19, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Reasonable people will not be happy about “bummers”. They are what they are and I suspect we will have to continue to endure them. This is where religion is handy, don’t you think?
    P.S. I noticed Witty’s comments on Stephen Walt’s site last week. My first thought was “new prescription”? But who knows?

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