In a few days, on February the 10th, Israel will elect its new leaders during legislative elections.
The 3 main contenders are Tzipi Livni from the Kadima party (Ariel Sharon's party), Ehud Barak from the Labour party and Benyamin Netanyahu from the Likud party.
Before the Gaza “war”, it was a 2 horse race. Livni against Netanyahu with Netanyahu leading by a good margin in every single polls.
Thanks to the Gaza “war” launched by Livni and Barak, a third horse entered the race. Barak saw his ratings surge and is now back in the race. Even if he does not get elected, his party will get quite a few more seats than it had planned a few months ago.
But the frontrunner has always been Benyamin Netanyahu and he remains, in the eyes of the majority of Israel's journalists (Gideon Levy from Haaretz) or activists (Jeff Halper from ICAHD) the more than probable future Prime Minister of Israel.
The world over hopes that this election will be as “clean and democratic” (according to Jimmy Carter and most international observers) as the last Palestinian one which took place in 2006 and saw Hamas win by a large majority.
We know what happened next. To make a long story short, Israel and most of the international community refused to recognize Hamas as a legitimate party and refused to recognize the newly formed Palestinian unity government in March 2007. Abbas, whose goal has always been to be recognized by the USA and Israel kicked Hamas out of the government and formed a new one with Salam Fayyad (politician and economist made in USA) as Prime Minister.
A violent pre-emptive war (ironically a US concept) was launched by Hamas against US and Israel backed Fatah militias (led by Mohammed Dahlan) and Hamas “took over” the Gaza Strip.
Even as they reacted with surprise and strongly condemned this move, the US and Israel had reached one of their long term objective in Palestine. “Divide and Rule” (a strategy used with great success by the US in the course of its history) was back on again with the West Bank becoming a respectable (i.e. cooperative) Palestinian authority territory and Gaza turning into the Islamic and evil HAMASTHAN.
An internationally supported Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip followed and once more, to make a long story short, the Gaza “war” was launched in December 2008 by Israel.
We are here today, more than 1300 Palestinian victims and 5000 injured later.
But why did all this happen? What was the official reason given by the Israel and the international community in their refusal to recognize Hamas?
The official reason was that Hamas refused to recognize Israel and had a charter calling for the destruction of the Israeli state.
Politicians and corporate media leaders accepted this without asking a few important questions. Which Israel should Hamas recognize? Israel has not yet established its permanent international borders. Should Hamas recognized the Israel of 1948, or the Israel of 1967? Or perhaps the Israel of 2009 with its apartheid wall, settlements (Settlement building increased by 60% in 2008, the year of the Annapolis “Peace Process” - Peace Now report), its second class Arab citizens and with East Jerusalem Annexed?
Any astute observer could also have objected by reminding people that Hamas (through Haniyeh and Meshal) had said many times over that it was willing to accept Israel as a political entity on the 1967 borders (You do not have to look hard for this. This was stated in the Guardian UK, Washington post . . .) meaning that Hamas was now in line with most of the international community - accepting a 2 states solution.
One issue came back over and over again. The problem is Hamas's charter. Whatever Meshal or Haniyeh were ready to accept, the charter came back to haunt them every time.