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Last update - 21:24 27/01/2006
Introducing Hamas - the new Likud
By Bradley Burston, email@example.com
Friday, 27 January (60 days to [Israeli] election day)
Presenting, the unthinkable.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may we introduce ... Hamas - the new Likud.
It's 1977 all over again, People of Israel. Once again, everything we knew, is wrong.
Sound familiar? The party in power, the only party which has ever held power, the party which made a people, has shown itself to be bottomlessly corrupt. It has long been unresponsive to crying social needs. It has proven incapable of making peace. It is ineffectual at bringing its people security.
There is no end to the cronyism, the economic inequality, the graft, the hidebound, unwieldy construction of interlocking, profoundly anti-democratic institutions.
Then one day, voters who have swallowed and suffered this for decades, revolt. Overnight, a virtual one-party system is overturned in a stunning victory by a lean, clean, dynamic rival, a movement long shunned for a violent past and an unbending, maximalist take on who should own the entirety of the Holy Land.
If the stage of history is often lit by irony, the proximity of the implosion of the Likud and the rise of Hamas may hold lessons for us, and for Hamas as well.
In 1977, the Likud of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir was derided abroad - and by the left at home - as a group led by terror warlords, a movement with roots in armed wings that had engaged in bombings and cold-blooded shootings.
It was seen - incorrectly - as inexperienced in everything except opposition. It was seen - ingenuously, by the left - as little more than an outgrowth of the Irgun and Lehi, heirs to Deir Yassin, implacable in its opposition to sharing or ceding land.
It was on May 17, 1977 that Begin's Likud defeated Labor. Exactly six months and two days later, the first leader of an Arab nation to publicly set foot on Israeli soil - a man who had ordered his armies to attack Israel on Yom Kippur - shook Begin's hand and drove with him to Jerusalem, where he would address the Knesset the next day.
It was the Likud that would trade away every last inch of the Sinai desert - 89 percent of all the land mass captured in the 1967 war - in exchange for a peace treaty with Egypt.
It was the Likud, in what was effectively its last, arguably suicidal act as a political party, that would recast the nature of political discourse in Israel by leaving the Gaza Strip unilaterally.
Even if Anwar Sadat was fated to become a shahid for peace, his journey to Jerusalem suggests a broader concept: If both Israel and its Arab enemy can claim victory in the same war, they may both be able to leverage that claim into some form of peace.
There were analysts abroad who have called this week's Hamas victory "the end of unilateralism." It may, however, be just the beginning.
Whether it is or not, whether Israel will actually withdraw from more of the West Bank, will depend to a great extent on what Hamas decides its guns are for. If they are for attacking Israelis, no government in Jerusalem will be able to suggest a further pullback. But if the rifles are for keeping order, and for enforcing a truce, a withdrawal could well take place, and Hamas will be able to claim yet another victory.
Moreover, if calm is maintained, Israel will be able to claim another victory as well.
It won't be simple for either side. The grief over thousands of casualties is still fresh.
For Hamas, the ideological leap will be tremendous. Though some in Hamas have made noises about finding a way to live with the 1967 borders, the concession for them will be as painful as that of Begin's creed of Greater Israel, which originally called for a Jewish state in all of what is now Israel, as well as all of the territories and the present kingdom of Jordan.
How likely is the scenario that Hamas will see to calm in hopes of an Israeli withdrawal?
Just how likely a scenario is our present reality?
In a matter of 20 days, both Israel and Palestine have witnessed the passing of their founding generation, the generation that seemed capable of burying us all.
God is in the unexpected. Left to our own devices, our fossilized expectations, our unwillingness to believe in a better future, we?ll mess up His work every time.
Thank God that we can be so wrong.
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