Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hamas in Charge

Hamas is trying to figure out what to do next. So are the Israelis. If they both wait and see long enough, we might even have peace.

Kadima and Likud will compete to show who's tougher (but also, who's smarter). Labor may join in. The other parties might also try. It will all be for show. Don't worry if they threaten this or that. Wait until after the elections to see what they do.

Hamas is going to have a hard time. Compromise at least verbally or lose funding. Will verbal compromise be enough? And is it in Israel's interest to keep the Palestinian economy afloat or to try to sink it? And how can Hamas make it be in Israel's interest to keep it afloat? Wouldn't anarchy serve Israel better? Even a little anarchy? I think so, even though anarchy is dangerous.

A good, solid, financial crisis may give Hamas plenty of excuses yet weaken them at a critical time. Israel can make it happen. Will it? Should it?

But then, when things get tough (and sooner or later they always do) Hamas is going to be tempted to respond with a Koranic crackdown (cover your head twice, ladies!) or a military adventure. There's a limit to how much they can crack down on their constituency, so if unemployment gets worse, or something else goes off the rails, Hamas might try a small war to distract the masses. Small wars become big wars. That's where some of the danger lies. And those aren't the only sources of conflict. Ideology is still the strongest motor in the region.

Is a "Final Status Solution" possible? Well, only Nixon could go to China and maybe only Sharon could "Disengage" out of Gaza. Perhaps only Hamas can sign a treaty? By this logic only Netanyahu can sign for Israel -- so he's the peace candidate?

If Arafat was really afraid for his life over signing the Clinton-Barak offer, can Hamas survive a similar deal? The trouble with treaties is that as soon as you see the opposition is willing to sign you begin to think you could have gotten a better deal. That seems to be a problem in the Middle East, anyway.

Everything is new again and the possibilities for war and peace have widened. Whichever side makes the best moves will likely profit. Israel has more friends than Hamas and would like to keep it that way. The Palestinians early elections might give time for Hamas to get organized and try to interfere in the Israeli elections. While the Israelis are still forming their new government Hamas might have already started making their moves. We'll see.

A Palestine that voted for Hamas can never give Israel real security. Neither Israel nor anyone else will believe that the Arabs recognize the Jewish State. So I think Israel will not be generous and trusting in any negotiations, should they occur. Decades of rejectionism and now an Islamist government probably mean a tough road ahead.

If Hamas feels they have the backing of a nuclear Iran, everything could change. If Hamas now feels that such backing will come soon, it will stall for time. Perhaps that is what Hamas is doing. On the other hand, the Israelis say that the reason for the reduction in suicide bombings is not that Hamas has stopped trying, but that the IDF is so good at stopping them.

The Peace Process drove off the Road Map some time ago and is off in the woods somewhere, contemplating it's navel. If Iran goes nuclear, Peace will be a martyr.