For years the State of Israel has worked to embolden Hamas among its people, encouraging it during hard times and making it a member of the Palestinian regime. The objective, of course, was to reach the longed for moment where it would be possible to take a deep sigh of relief and say smilingly: "Now there is really no one to talk to."
This was the reason why any Palestinian leadership that was not Hamas was crushed. This is what the wise guys aimed for when they gave Arafat a hard time. This was the purpose of the systematic pounding of the Palestinian Authority's forces. This was the rationale behind the persistent and humiliating mitigation of Mahmoud Abbas' authority.
And indeed, Hamas developed nicely. It grew stronger, became organized and liked amongst its people, and ultimately won the last elections.
And the more Hamas grew stronger and the Palestinian Authority lost its power, Israeli voices increased their calls to "fight Hamas," "impede Hamas," "disarm Hamas" and other minor tasks that the State of Israel has been unable to do for the past 40 years of tyranny.
"The Palestinians need their own Altalena affair," Israelis began saying with a learned expression on their faces. Namely, the national Palestinian institutions need to do what David Ben-Gurion did to the Jewish dissidents in 1948. As we recall, he ordered the shelling of the Irgun's arms ship "Altalena," thus writing – some will maintain – a vital and painful chapter in national order, obedience and unity.
In short, the Israeli bon ton maintained that the Palestinians should also embark on a civil war. Let them experience their own Altalena.
And lo and behold, we won the jackpot. Hamas, in an act that was more reminiscent of a prison revolt than a coup d'état, took over the Gaza Strip. It’s not exactly an Altalena a la Ben-Gurion, but definitely very similar. Indeed, it seems that on the face of it, the dissidents in the Palestinian Altalena won while government institutions were defeated, but a more sober examination shows that this is a Pyrrhic victory.
Hamas is holding on to this victory as though it were a hot potato – it doesn't know how to hold it or how to toss it. It is beginning to understand that it created a complex problem, and that it may have won a small, ugly and cruel battle, but in the overall calculation of the war – it suffered a defeat. Soon it will become crystal clear that this is indeed an Altalena.
Ongoing developments are also beginning to resemble our Altalena affair. On both sides of the tracks initial rustlings of reconciliation and dialogue are breaking forth; initial declarations of unity and a bid to come closer. This is, after all, the way of Altalena: Brothers clash, and then they reunite. The fallout simmers for years, yet the nation is reunited.
In our Israeli Altalena, we even got to see former dissidents become part of today's institutions. Is there any greater reconciliation and unity than this?
But surprise surprise: It has suddenly become apparent that those very same Israelis who desperately yearned for a Palestinian Altalena, in fact only intended a partial one. We only encourage the civil war but not the reconciliation that must ensue. We only want the bloodshed, the hatred and the exchange of fire coming out of the "sacred cannons" - but not the compromise, unification or the joining of forces behind a single regime.
And if Mahmoud Abbas dares to refrain from a civil war, or utter words of reconciliation, or heaven forbid adhere to any whisperings of dialogue coming from the other side, we shall immediately inform him that he has deviated from the permissible limits of Altalena. We shall once again disqualify him as a partner for dialogue and again yearn for that joyous moment when the Palestinians experience another Altalena.