Shaqued Morag in Netanyahu's Newspaper: Netanyahu Sustains Hamas to Avoid Peace with Abbas

Peace Now's director general Shaqued Morag today published an important article lambasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his anti-peace policies. It should be noted that the article was published in the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom. 

To view the Hebrew article online click here

Following is an English adaptation of Shaqued's op-ed: 

Netanyahu Sustains Hamas to Avoid Peace with Abbas 

The name of my organization, Peace Now, has been frequently mentioned in recent days to depict the Israeli government’s restrained management of the Gaza crisis. We appreciate the recognition and publicity. Thanks. But, no thanks!

Referring to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza policy as being peace-seeking is a colossal misnomer. Yes, Netanyahu’s policy has not been as belligerent as the practices advocated by his extreme right-wing coalition partners. But it has nothing to do with peace. Unfortunately, Netanyahu is willing to sacrifice prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace for the sake of continued Israeli rule in the West Bank, even if that means perpetual conflict with the Palestinians, ongoing rockets from Gaza and stabbing attacks from the West Bank.

After all, a fence that will hermetically separate Israel from the Gaza Strip has not been invented. Gaza’s cross-border kites and balloons have taught us this lesson. There is also no military move that will topple Hamas without conquering the Gaza Strip, as every defense minister has learned and as senior IDF officers will tell you. The way to achieve long-term calm goes through Mahmoud Abbas’ Muqat’a in Ramallah. In other words, long-term stability can only stem from a political agreement diplomatically negotiated with Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu does not want such negotiations. Therefore, every time a path is paved toward a two-state vision, Netanyahu immediately acts to undermine it.

Thus, for example, Netanyahu's negotiations with Hamas are not dovish moves to build Hamas as an interlocutor for political negotiations. Rather, they are hawkish moves that signal to Hamas: We see you flexing your muscle, it is a language that we understand very well, and we have no interest in any other kind of discourse.

In fact, all the steps that Netanyahu has taken over the last decade, especially those that he has not taken, indicate a desire to weaken the most moderate partner in the arena - the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas - and to undermine his limited influence in the Gaza Strip. When Abbas established a reconciliation government with Hamas, Netanyahu was outraged and condemned his cooperation with the terrorist organization. After the unity government was dissolved, he claimed that Abbas did not represent all the Palestinians. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, cooperation between Abbas and Hamas contradicts the unofficial policy of the Israeli government in the past several years: perpetuating the separation between Gaza and the West Bank. The rationale of this policy is this: A Palestinian Authority that has control over the Gaza Strip will remind everyone that the West Bank and Gaza are a single Palestinian entity. Such a recognition will invite intensifying international pressure to thaw the political deadlock and may push Netanyahu into the corner.

Netanyahu insists on not giving Abbas any political achievements, certainly not in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, Israel continues to maintain close security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Thus, most Israelis enjoy relative calm, while the settlement enterprise can continue unchecked.

As Netanyahu faces criticism over anti-Israel violence emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he knows that he will survive the criticism that he’ll face for a military operation or a war with several dozen dead and hundreds injured. But if, heaven forbid, diplomatic negotiations suddenly erupt and demands for a compromise on Jerusalem and the evacuation of thousands of settlers from the West Bank come up, don’t expect Netanyahu to demonstrate leadership.

So, when Netanyahu's inner circle suddenly explains why it is not worthwhile to go to war but rather to reach an arrangement with Hamas, don’t conflate him with Peace Now. Had Netanyahu consulted with us, we would have told him: we do not try to solve political problems by military means and do not give political achievements to a violent partner.

In truth, though, there is no need to consult with Peace Now to know this. A long list of former and current defense establishment officials has already determined that genuine security for Israel's citizens will be achieved only in a political agreement with the Palestinian Authority, backed by the international community. Unfortunately, the price of such an agreement -- giving up the Greater Israel vision – is one that "Mr. Security" is too scared to pay.