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  2006-03-04-The effect of Hamas
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Ira Sharkansky



 Hamas victory a public
relations boon for Israel, March 4, 2006

By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM--Is it possible that the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election was the best thing to happen for Israel since 1948?
You bet.
It is more desirable to have an extremist opponent than a moderate with whom one must deal. It is possible to ignore the extremist and go one's own way. It may be as if the Palestinians suddenly disappeared, and no longer present a political challenge to Israel's capacity to live in relative safety.
Of course, there is a down side. We can expect a continuation of terror, sponsored or supported by international powers like Iran, Syria, and maybe South Africa. However, Israel's acquisition of defense learning during the five and one-half years of Intafada is likely to give it the capacity to limit the damage to something significantly less than that associated with traffic accidents, or murders in New York City. In other words, it can be like the detritus associated with urban living.
Early signs are that Hamas will live up to the role associated with unreformed extremists. It is not willing to discuss reform of its antediluvian covenant, which assigns all the bad moments in 100 years of world history to Zionists. It is not willing to recognize Israel, or to engage in a dialog with Israel. It is willing to discuss Israel with third parties, like the United States. That will not get the Hamasniks very far. It has been a long time since Israel was such a pariah that it had to sit outside the room where deals were hammered out for its acceptance.
Israel is moving as if Hamas—and by extension the Palestinians—do not exist. The barrier continues to be built, despite occasional delays by decisions of Israeli courts. Palestinian protests, joined by self-styled Israeli "anarchists" have resulted only in a few of the protestors injured by the police and delivered to local hospitals. Occasional reports of terror attacks planned have led Israel to close the gates in the barriers around Gaza since mid-February that transport goods and allow workers to move daily to jobs in Israel. Some Israeli factories and farmers have lost sales to Gaza, but Gazan families are not eating as well as they did when some 5,000 men could come to Israel for day jobs.
No Palestinian "security forces," numbering at least 30,000 in Gaza alone, have sought to disturb the few hundred Palestinians who make and fire rockets toward Israel. Recently they have not done any damage, so the IDF is willing to continue its side of a game and shell the empty area from which the rockets are fired. Once a rocket lands too close to an Israeli, that game is likely to change. A few Palestinians may learn what it is like to wonder if there is a missile or artillery shell likely to fall in one's neighborhood.
What will happen to the Palestinian population led by an intransigent Hamas? That will be their problem. Once the barrier is complete, there may be little movement between Palestine and Israel, and that will be tightly controlled. Activists will bleat about the injustice, but the postures adhered to by Hamas will be all the defense Israel needs in the enlightened capitals. Palestinians will find allies among extremist Muslim countries and some third world countries, but most of them will be even further into the international corner reserved for pariahs than Israel. Early signs are that support for Hamas will be weak, at best, among the likes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other Muslim states troubled by their own Islamic extremists.
Note the conditional expressions throughout this letter. It will all depend on how extremist Hamas remains. If things continue as they are, it will lead the Palestinians deeper toward the stone age in terms of education, economic opportunity, sexual equality, humane laws, medical care, and all the other modern goodies. It will not be entirely pleasant to have a Taliban quality regime a few hundred meters from many Israeli homes, including ours. But the balance of power is likely to be awesomely in our favor.
Can Hamas change? Perhaps. But it would be as momentous as the claim that the Prophet has altered the Koran. Or that the sun has risen in the West.

Sharkansky is an emeritus member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem