Mahmoud Abbas’ popularity in the West is a headache for Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s no wonder he’d rather do business with Hamas
If I were Bibi Netanyahu, that’s what I’d want. I’d say to myself: “Mahmoud Abbas is a pain in the neck, he’s popular with the West, he makes Israel look bad – he cooperates with us and we don’t cooperate with him, so he goes to the UN and makes us look bad. Puts pressure on me to do things I don’t want to do and couldn’t do even if I wanted to, which I don’t. But Hamas? Hamas is easy. Hamas sits in Gaza and fires the odd rocket, no big deal. It doesn’t ask for negotiations, doesn’t demand anything. But the best part of all is that Hamas is even less popular In the West than I am – much less. If Hamas is my ’partner’ – I have no partner. I don’t have to do anything – no negotiations, no ’67 borders, no settlement freeze, nothing. And if they get restless and start firing rockets again – boom, Operation Cast Lead II, worse than the first time, and the West will support me, starting with that wimp Obama and all the way through pussy Europe. Even Lieberman could handle the hasbara on this one. It’s us and the world against Hamas, militarily and diplomatically both. Problem solved. Short-term, anyway. Long-term? As they say, God is great.”
That’s if I were Bibi. What the real Bibi is saying to himself, I have no idea, but given his view of the situation with the Palestinians, logic says he wants to deal with Hamas instead of Abbas, whether he admits it to himself or not. This goes not only for him, but for all the politicians who are dead set against giving up the West Bank – Lieberman, Yishai and all the other right-wingers who run the country.
This is the logic of what Bibi and his government want – even without looking at the Gilad Schalit deal, which, of course, provides a ton of circumstantial evidence to back up this view. Hamas kidnaps a soldier and takes home 1,000 prisoners, Abbas fights Hamas every day and takes home nothing but humiliation. It was pretty clear that the most short-sighted hawks in the government, maybe even including Netanyahu, got a spiteful kick out of this. But a story in Haaretz today says screwing Abbas isn’t about spite, it’s government policy – to keep on paying him back for the UN. And if this policy brings him down, so be it. As one advisor to Netanyahu said,
We don’t want the Palestinian Authority to collapse, but if it happens, it won’t be the end of the world.
They know who would take Abbas and Fatah’s place as the political leadership of the West Bank, and it won’t be the end of the world. A door closes and a window opens, right?
There are many Israelis and Westerners on the Left, not to mention a lot of Palestinians, who think Bibi is doing their work for them, who think the occupation will end a lot faster with Hamas rather than Abbas as the Palestinians’ address. I think they couldn’t be more wrong. Unlike the case with Abbas, Hamas’ positions on every issue dividing the Palestinians from Israel are hopelessly incompatible with a two-state solution. All that a Hamas leadership can bring is more war, a deeper occupation, a freefall down to the bottomless pit of Israeli nationalism and militarism, and no way out.
This government definitely wants the last three. Does it also want the first one, more war? If they were honest, I think Bibi and Co. would answer: “Yes and no – but if it’s yes, it won’t be the end of the world.”