“Only Nixon can go to China,” as the old Vulcan proverb goes. Nixon’s ruthless soulmate Henry Kissinger, that old Vulcan, somehow manages to get through this WaPo op-ed without typing “only Hamas can make peace with Israel.” But the phrase hovers over all.

The advent of Hamas brings us to a point where the peace process must be brought into some conformity with conditions on the ground. The old game plan that Palestinian elections would produce a moderate secular partner cannot be implemented with Hamas in the near future. What would be needed from Hamas is an evolution comparable to Sharon’s. The magnitude of that change is rarely adequately recognized. For most of his career, Sharon’s strategic goal was the incorporation of the West Bank into Israel by a settlement policy designed to prevent Palestinian self-government over significant contiguous territory. In his indefatigable pursuit of this objective, Sharon became a familiar figure on his frequent visits to America, with maps of his strategic concept rolled up under his arms to brief his interlocutors.

Late in life, Sharon, together with a growing number of his compatriots, concluded that ruling the West Bank would deform Israel’s historic objective. Instead of creating a Jewish homeland, the Jewish population would, in time, become a minority. The coexistence of two states in Palestinian territory had become imperative. Under Sharon, Israel seemed prepared to withdraw from close to 95 percent of West Bank territory, to abandon a significant percentage of the settlements — many of them placed there by Sharon — involving the movement of tens of thousands of settlers into pre-1967 Israel, and to compensate Palestinians for the retained territory by some equivalent portions of Israeli territory. Significant percentages of Israelis are prepared to add the Arab part of Jerusalem to such a settlement as the possible capital of a Palestinian state.

Well, if there’s any corner of the current globe where realpolitik has proven itself reliable with dreary consistency, this is it.

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