Israeli optimists are moving into high gear, along with leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other international worthies. It is conventional wisdom to support Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazan) in what is developing as an intense political conflict or perhaps a civil war in Palestine.
The good guys are the Fatah Party, once led by the late Messiah Yassir Arafat. The bad guys are Hamas, once led by the late Messiah Ahmed Yassin, and now divided between a local faction headed by prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and what may be the real command of Kahaled Mashaal who remains out of Israeli range in Damascus.
There is a difference between the parties. Hamas is driven by Islamic intensity, and refuses ever to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. Fatah is more secular and more flexible. Its leaders have dealt with Israel, and they always proclaim the importance of peace on agreed terms. The present party leader has consistently said that Palestinians should not fire missiles into Israel. But saying "no no" has been the extent of his willingness to enforce the prohibition. Occasionally he has sent his security forces, which once numbered 30,000 in Gaza, to stand looking official in the area from which the missiles were fired. They, too, may have said "no no," but they did nothing more than that to stop the couple of hundred heroes who kept hauling the missiles, setting them up, and firing them in the direction of Sderot or Ashkelon.
The preferred posture of the US and the UK is to support Abu Mazan's call for a new election, to ask Israel to send more rifles to him, and to hope that he can hold off a Palestinian disaster in the short run, and win an election a bit later.
I want to be as optimistic as anyone. I really believe that we should never say never.
If the Palestinians do get to an election, Hamas may even improve on the victory that it won the last time. Lots of people in Gaza and the West Bank are suffering from a reduction in outside financial aid, but lots of them are also intense nationalists and fervent about their faith. Those willing to die for Allah, or to send their children in their place, are also likely to vote for Hamas.
We were more optimistic in 1993 when Israelis and Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords.
Since then almost 1,300 Israelis have died as the result of Palestinian violence. Abu Mazan tells his people that more than 500 of them have died since the Islamic heroes seized an Israeli soldier in August, and that the price of violence for his people is greater than the benefits. When he talks like that, Israelis of all kinds say, "maybe we can deal with him." Perhaps he will do more than say "no no."
Complicating the picture are noises from Syria: wanting peace with Israel; willing to enter negotiations without pre-conditions. Syria wants the return of the Golan Heights, but now is willing to talk without a prior agreement on that point.
Optimists are moving a bit higher on their scale of hope. The bet of the doubtful is that the Syrian regime wants a breather from international pressures resulting from its aiding of the bad guys in Lebanon and Iraq, and thinks some conversations with Israel can be its life saver.
Also out there is Jimmy Carter, signing his book that headlines Israeli apartheid, but also saying that there is no apartheid in Israel. He is certain that Israel and unenlightened American officials have turned a cold shoulder to opportunities for peace. He regrets terror, but wants the Jews to turn the other cheek.
More pressing for some of my compatriots is that a growing number of football players have been arrested for selling out to the gamblers. Anybody out there old enough to remember the Black Sox?
At home, we have been worrying about our 15-year old mongrel, Motzi. She had a stroke last week, and we thought the ride to the vet would be her last. But so far so good. Steroids are doing their work.
We can manage her daily dosage. We will leave to others the Palestinian civil war, elections, rifles to Abu Mazan, and the possibilities with Syria and Jimmy Carter .