James, your response brings to mind the phrase “defining deviancy down.” Even though the Palestinians’ popularly-elected parliament is led by a terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction, even though Palestinians are at war with themselves, the Israelis, you say, are supposed to strike a deal that isn’t worth the paper it would be printed on because it has to deal with the best partners it has. Unfortunately, Israel has been down that road before. That was the whole argument for elevating Arafat to the status of statesman, only to see him reject a Palestinian state when it was offered to him in 2000 and launch another Intifada instead. Give the Palestinians more autonomy and make them more accountable? That was the whole logic behind the Olso process as well as the recent democratic elections. The same argument was used when the Israelis withdrew from Gaza and when Hamas came to power–that now they’d be held accountable. Instead, Hamas smuggled in weapons from Egypt, used Gaza as staging ground to launch rockets at Israeli civilians, and built tunnels to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The correct response is not to ask Israel to lower its standards to negotiate under these circumstances, but to hold firm until Palestinians understand that there only way to statehood is to behave like responsible, viable peace partners. Disengagement was one way to change the status quo and preserve Israeli security regardless of whether there was a viable peace partner, but Sharon’s stroke and Olmert’s subsequent ascent to power decreased the likelihood that such a policy would succeed.
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