"You wish to give this evil animal a reservation that is called a Palestinian state of terror," roared Effi Eitan, minister to Ariel Sharon. Eitan was viewing the carnage of a Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 19, mostly school kids, the day another terrorist bomber blew six Israelis to pieces and wounded 30.
"How do we negotiate with animals like this?" say Israelis.
That anguished question, everywhere asked in Israel, is the triumph of Hamas. For Hamas does not want a negotiated peace, and the closer peace approaches, the more violent it becomes. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade want Israel dead.
But most Palestinians, and many Arab states, would accept a peace with an Israel back inside its 1967 borders. Egypt and Jordan have already recognized Israel. Hence, Hamas could not have a more perfect foil than Sharon, with his iron conviction that force and violence are the only way to deal with these murderous Arabs.
Whenever Palestinians or Israelis seem to be moving toward the peace table, Hamas snaps that bloody red cape of bloody terror in the face or Ariel Sharon, and Sharon dutifully imitates the raging bull.
"We will never negotiate with terrorists and never reward terror," Israelis respond to the latest atrocities. Understandably so. But what Israelis fail to understand is that they are rewarding terror every time they respond in the way Hamas intends them to.
Nothing, for example, would more please Hamas than to have the Israelis invade every Palestinian refugee camp and run up a body count of hundreds -- the more innocent the better. For that would enrage all Palestinians, recruit more suicide bombers, inflame the Arab world and bring U.S. pressure to get off the West Bank. Today, Hamas is writing the script and Sharon is taking its cues.
About the character and intentions of Hamas, there is little that is not known. But what is Sharon's end game? By continuing to annex land, and build settlements inside the West Bank, he appears determined to come out of this war with part of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem, leaving only urban bantustans of Palestinians that are surrounded, isolated and defenseless. That is a formula for the permanent war the Islamic extremists ardently desire.
Sharon also, in a way, benefits from the terror of Hamas, for it eliminates all U.S. pressure on him to negotiate a peace in which he would have to give up more land than he is willing to.
Who, then, are the winners and who the losers from this second Intifada, whose defining figure is the suicide bomber? The winners at Oslo were the Nobel Prize winners Rabin, Peres and Arafat. Land-for-peace was welcomed by Americans, Israelis, most Palestinians and most of the Arab states.
The losers at Oslo? Sharon, who rejected land-for-peace, the West Bank settlers, and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran, who reject any peace with the "Zionist entity." In the second Intifada, however, the winners at Oslo have become the losers, and the losers at Oslo have become the winners.
On the Israeli side, terrorism brought to power Sharon and Eitan, and their no-negotiations stand is now the stand of most Israelis. Among the Palestinians, the loser is Arafat. He cannot deliver peace, security or liberty to a people who are suffering as they have not suffered in a third of a century of occupation. And the Palestinian young are embracing the cult of the suicide bomber.
Game, set, match -- Hamas. Revolutionary terror against Western empires did not always succeed in the 20th century.
The Boxer Rebellion failed, the Puerto Rican terrorists who tried to murder Harry Truman and shot up the House of Representatives in 1954 failed. But more often than not, terrorism succeeded. The Irgun, the Viet Minh, the Algerian FLN, the Viet Cong, the Mau Mau of Kenyatta, Mugabe in Rhodesia, the ANC of Mandela, Hezbollah in Lebanon -- all triumphed.
In the end, it comes down to this: Who will pay the higher price in blood for the land in dispute? The Al Aksa Brigades, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have shoved their stack in. They are willing to kill and die indefinitely to get Israel off of all Palestinian land -- and there is no electorate to tell them to desist.
What price is Sharon willing to pay to hold the West Bank and East Jerusalem? An annual toll of Israeli dead from endless Intifadas and endless terror? Enclosure of the West Bank? Expulsion of the Palestinians? It is Sharon's call, for the White House is unwilling to pay, even in coin of political controversy, to force a settlement. It devoutly wishes the Mideast would go away. And as the men of words retreat, the men of the bomb and gun decide.