Hamas is smart enough to understand that Israeli leaders can’t cut them any more slack. Sure, even Prime Minister Netanyahu (let’s call him Bibi) understands that Hamas is more cautious than in the past, since, as a government collecting taxes and building assets, it now has a lot to lose. But Israel has little choice but to put the worst interpretation on Hamas’s actions, for an obvious reason: Hamas pledges to destroy the state of Israel. Hamas-lovers lose all credibility when they ignore that fact.
The Palestinian blame does not end with Hamas in Gaza, but runs to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. For sure, Bibi’s government has made peace prospects ever dimmer. But that, too, is not without cause. Bibi came to power in the wake of two failed Israeli peace efforts—efforts that Palestinian leaders rejected. These offers were made by Ehud Barak at the end of the Clinton administration, and by Ehud Olmert at the end of George W. Bush’s term. Olmert offered the Palestinians almost all of what they had been demanding—a state with safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in East Jerusalem, a readjustment of Israeli settlements and 1967 borders, etc. When the plans were rejected, first by Yasir Arafat and then by current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli politics turned sharply rightward on peace efforts.
During this time, President Abbas has done little or nothing to prepare the Palestinian people for a peace settlement with a Jewish state of Israel. His people say he’s not politically strong enough to try, but that’s true for all leaders faced with difficult compromises with adversaries and enemies. Some step up to the plate with courage, and others, like Abbas, run away. How much courage would it take for him to ask that the Olmert proposal be put back on the table? He’s never come close to doing this, and the cost of doing so would not be great. In fact, he would benefit by putting the onus of political pressure back on Bibi. So when the blame is apportioned, Abbas and his fellow West Bank leaders have a good deal to answer for.