Aner Shalev
Haaretz (Opinion)
December 16, 2012 - 1:00am


Benjamin Netanyahu needs Hamas. He needs Hamas desperately. If there were no Hamas, Netanyahu would have to invent it. He desperately needs a strong Hamas in order to avoid a peace process, and he is doing everything he can to strengthen Hamas. Even his military actions, which appear to hurt Hamas, actually serve its long-term interests.

The romance between Netanyahu and Hamas began in 1996. Without Hamas, Netanyahu would not have been elected prime minister. The assassination of "the Engineer" Yihye Ayash - a decision by Shimon Peres that sealed his political fate - brought on the revenge of Hamas in the form of a rising wave of bloody terror on the eve of the 1996 elections. Acts of terrorism here automatically strengthen the right, especially if they take place during the term of a left-leaning government. Thus, despite the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and resultant sympathy for the Labor Party, Hamas succeeded, by way of a series of murderous terror attacks, to sow shock and frustration with the Oslo process, and to bring Netanyahu to power.

The next stage of this romance was not long in arriving. Netanyahu, as prime minister, ordered the Mossad to assassinate Khaled Meshal in Amman. Until then, Meshal had been an almost anonymous figure. The attempt to poison him failed, and the delivery of a life-saving antidote, at Netanyahu's grudging order, made Meshal an international celebrity. If there was any intention of harming Hamas, the end result was completely the opposite.

Moreover, in order to obtain the release of Mossad agents held in Jordan, Netanyahu freed the head of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from prison. Hamas certainly did not expect such a prize. Unintentionally, a certain poetic justice resulted: Hamas brought Netanyahu to power, and Netanyahu rewarded it by upgrading its leaders, Meshal and Yassin.

During the Gaza disengagement, there was an opportunity to strengthen the peace process at the expense of Hamas. However, the disengagement was unilateral, implemented in the absence of any negotiation with Mahmoud Abbas. Strange that while Israel was ready to retreat to the 1967 land borders in the south, it did so without any dialogue, agreement or support for the more moderate Palestinian factions. Under those conditions it came as no surprise that the PLO was weakened and Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. The proponents of unilateralism among us also raised the status of unilateralists among the Palestinians. Those who refused dialogue, from both sides, could now breathe easy.

Last year Netanyahu released about 1,000 Hamas terrorists in the Gilad Shalit deal, and last month, during Operation Pillar of Defense, allowed the organization to accomplish unprecedented feats, such as firing missiles on Tel Aviv and gaining international legitimacy. Meshal, who had already been administered a life-saving injection by Netanyahu in 1997, received another one more recently. He was pulled back off the ropes, returned to center ring, and permitted, for the first time in his life, to visit Gaza.

His visit to Gaza, which inflamed popular sentiment there, would never have been permitted by another Israeli government. He made speeches that denied Israel's right to exist within any borders whatsoever, and called for its destruction. Meshal fulfilled his part in the unwritten covenant between himself and Netanyahu: There is nothing to talk about. The Holocaust narrative returns.

Hamas needs Netanyahu. Hamas needs to thank our prime minister for his faithful service and for weakening its main rival, Mahmoud Abbas - which would result in the West Bank being surrendered to Hamas on a silver platter. If only Hamas members could participate in our upcoming elections, clearly they would vote Likud-Beiteinu. The other parties threaten to destroy them, or to talk with their rivals. Only Netanyahu does not disappoint. Only Netanyahu is reliable. If you vote Bibi, you vote Hamas.


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