Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Hamas takeover good for us?
Martin Sherman offers rebuttal to Guy Bechor’s desire for Hamas rule in West bank
Guy Bechor's recent article, Hamas takeover good for us, should give us much cause for concern. For Bechor is not only one of the few well-known media figures who, in recent years, has demonstrated a commendably hard-headed and sober attitude towards the Palestinians in particular, and the broader Arab and Muslim world in general - in addition to his journalistic acumen, he also has extensive scholarly knowledge of the region, its customs and conduct. It is therefore particularly disturbing and disappointing to encounter such a shallow and dangerously shortsighted analysis from him. The flaws in his arguments are both great and glaring. So while Bechor is correct to point out that the negotiations with Fatah are futile - describing them as "false and dangerous" -and is right to call for recognition that "there is no possibility of resolving…issues (such as)…the refugee problem, the Jerusalem question, etc...," the idea of endorsing a Hamas accession to power is wildly off the mark. For it is difficult - to say the least - to see what benefits would accrue to Israel from such an outcome, whether it continues to maintain a presence in Judea and Samaria, or not.
Regrettably, the harsh lessons of the unfortunate experience of the "disengagement" from Gaza seem completely lost on Bechor. Thus he advocates giving the Hamas-dominated "West Bank" ready access to the Arab world, unregulated and unsupervised by Israel, declaring that "the…most important point (is that) Israel needs to open the border crossings between the West Bank and East Bank". This is a recommendation that is little short of astounding – especially in light of the catastrophic results this measure brought about in the Gaza Strip, precipitating a massive influx of arms smuggled into the area, which according to most experts, is likely to have a tangible strategic impact on any future IDF operations.
No less astonishing is Bechor's unsubstantiated claim that "Jordan would do a better job than Israel in monitoring the border and deciding who and what will enter Judea and Samaria." In view of the dismal failure of the Egyptians "to monitor and decide who and what will enters Gaza," whose border they were entrusted to secure, one can only wonder on what Bechor bases his confident assessment of Jordanian efficacy and resolve.
False aura of respectability
One of Bechor's major arguments for a Hamas takeover is that this will allegedly remove the ambiguity that envelops the current situation and make it "clear to everyone who the good guys and bad guys are…" Yet there are several serious flaws in this approach.
Firstly it should be recalled that the ambiguity surrounding the Fatah is more the product of Israel's feebleminded and fainthearted diplomatic policy than any inherent characteristic of that organization. It was Israel's ill-fated Oslowian initiative that conferred respectability on Fatah, which was still classified as a terrorist organization in the US at the time this misguided enterprise was launched.
This false aura of respectability is only perpetuated by Israel's own diplomatic folly and by continued Israeli insistence on branding the Fatah as "moderate," despite the fact that is not less committed than Hamas to the eradication of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – as reflected not only by the explicit wording of its constitution but by the unequivocal declarations of its senior members at the Annapolis summit last November.
Moreover, while Fatah enjoys far more international acceptance than Hamas, it would be dangerous folly to believe that this state of affairs is immutable. Already calls - both inside and outside Israel - are being made for "engaging" the Hamas as the only party that "can deliver the goods" - strongly reminiscent of the fatally flawed but fashionably fetching rationale that argued for "engaging" the previously shunned Arafat.
Indeed, one of the most recent appeals in this regard was made by Noble Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari. This is a trend that is very likely to gather momentum if Fatah were permanently and irrevocably swept away - leaving Hamas as the only available representative of the Palestinians.
Radical Muslim entity
Unfortunately, Bechor's prescription is neither clear nor convincing. In essence it calls for Jordan and Egypt to "pull the chestnuts out of the fire" for Israel and, as such, amounts to little more than dangerous and unrealistic escapism.
Egypt, for well over a quarter of century, has assiduously refused to "assume responsibility in Gaza" - in spite of efforts to induce it to do so; and Jordan, having publicly renounced any claims to the "West Bank" in 1988, has no obvious reason to do so now.
Bechor seems equally unconvincing and injudicious in his offhand disregard for what might happen should Israel withdraw its control from these areas. As the events in Gaza prove, what happens in areas vacated by Israel is indeed Israel's problem. This would be even more so in the case of Judea and Samaria, which are adjacent to major urban population concentrations, strategic infrastructure installations, and key centers of commerce. One needs little imagination to envisage the catastrophic effect on the country should anything like the recent realities in Sderot be visited on the Greater Tel Aviv region.
Moreover, given Bechor's declared intention of maintaining regular and ongoing contacts "between the West Bank and East Bank," in the face of growing influence by Islamist elements in Jordan and the clear Palestinian majority in that minority-ruled monarchy, it is entirely unclear how the forces of zealous irredentism be prevented from eventually forging a single radical Muslim entity, stretching from the Iraqi border to the eastern approaches of Tel Aviv.
Brutal simplicity of conflict
All this leaves us baffled as to why so seasoned a pundit as Bechor would subscribe to such a far-fetched and deleterious thesis. Why would he believe that the Jordanians or the Egyptians have any interest in playing the role of warden for the Zionist entity? What would lead him to believe that, over time, they would commit men and treasure to protect Jews against Muslims without bringing the wrath of the Arab world upon them? And even if the currently incumbents rulers in Cairo and Amman fear the rise of radical Islam, why would they clash with its adherents rather than allow them to channel their frenzied zeal against
Israel - thus relieving the pressure on their own regimes?
The reason, it seems, is rooted in the adamant refusal of many in the country to accept the brutal simplicity of the Israel-Arab conflict: Between the river and the sea, there can – and eventually will – be either exclusive Jewish sovereignty or exclusive Arab sovereignty. The side that will prevail will be the side whose national will is stronger and whose political vision is sharper. All those who subscribe to the ideal of a nation-state for the Jews in their ancient homeland must recognize this unpalatable but fundamental truth, and accept its inevitable consequences: The burden of safeguarding our national security and sovereignty cannot be abdicated or outsourced