It is impossible to ignore the voices calling on Israel to negotiate with Hamas, even if there aren't very many of them. But it is also impossible to ignore the voices coming from Gaza, such as those heard over the weekend, calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. Hamas marked the 25th anniversary of its establishment this weekend and its' leaders message was clear: Hamas is the same Hamas, Palestine is the same Palestine and Zionists are the same Zionists. In Gaza, they have been preserving, with great success, the idea of the "old Middle East." There was no Hanukkah miracle in Gaza this weekend.
After the spectacle of hate put on by Hamas in Gaza this weekend, Israel can only be left to wonder: What exactly are we supposed to talk about with Hamas? Giving Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Safed to the Palestinians, as demanded by Khaled Mashaal in his speech on Saturday? Mashaal declared that all of Israel is ancestral Palestinian land and must be returned to the Palestinians, with a united Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian state.
Mashaal, one must admit, displayed surprising maturity when he said: "We don't kill Jews because they are Jews, just the Zionist occupiers." In other words, it could very well be that Mashaal would permit Jews to live in Palestine as dhimmis (non-Muslims who must may extra taxes to protect their rights), something that would permit us to keep eating pita in Jaffa and hummus in Acre, but only after our land was seized from us. We may not go hungry, but we won't have sovereignty.
In 1987, when Israel was ruled by the unity government of Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres, Israel turned a blind eye as several Muslim Brotherhood members, led by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founded Hamas. The Palestine Liberation Organization was Israel's main enemy at the time and Hamas was intended as a counterweight to Yasser Arafat's group. In those days, this idea was somewhat logical. But logic is not the strong suit of the wild neighborhood in which we live.
Over the past 25 years, the Middle East has experienced a number of changes. Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel has flirted with the Palestinians about the idea of two states. This would have been nice, if not for the fact that Israel then suffered terrorist attacks not only from Gaza, but also from the West Bank.
Following Israel's Gaza Disengagement in 2005, Hamas upgraded its political status in the Palestinian elections a year later before seizing total control of Gaza in a coup in 2007. Last year, after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Hamas gained an ally in the presidential palace in Cairo.
Fatah members demonstrated much respect to Hamas over the weekend. The word "reconciliation" sprang forth from many throats. Not between the "Zionists" and the Palestinians, God forbid, but rather between the people of Gaza and the people of the West Bank.
"I ask that God allow me to die a martyrs' death on this land," Mashaal said on Saturday. If he so insists, may his wish be granted.