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Thursday, January 26, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Writes Ed Morrisey at Captain’s Quarters this morning:

the Palestinians should be judged by the choices they have made this week. They have chosen war and the annihilation of Israel over the two-state solution favored publicly (if not fervently) by Fatah. Europe and the United States need to wake up from their delusional dreamland of a situation where both sides in this conflict want a peaceful conclusion and a world without hatred for their children and grandchildren. Clearly, the Palestinians want war, and they have made no secret of using their children and grandchildren as bomb fuses in order to perpetuate it.

While there can be no doubt that those who voted for Hamas knew the group’s position on Israel, this is a radical over-simplification of a complex political situation. For one thing, it isn’t as if Fatah was utterly opposed to political violence, or that their members were all lily-white in terms of their innocence vis-à-vis terrorism. Remember: Fatah came out of the PLO, which was Hamas before Hamas was Hamas.

I point this out to note that the notion that there was a stark choice for the Palestinian voters between a “peace” party and a “war” party is incorrect. For one thing, that was not, as best as I can tell, what the campaign was about. The key issues in this election were corruption and the fact that Fatah has had a difficult time delivering on basic governance in the PA.

To crystallize these events into such declarations as “They [Palestinian voters] have chosen war and the annihilation of Israel” and “the Palestinians want war” is to ignore any attempt to analyze why the voters chose as they did and to assume that the Palestinians view in a very binary way (i.e., War:Not War). It also assumes that the only thing that Hamas does is terrorism. I am no apologist for Hamas, but do know that they do more within the Palestinian community than bombing Israel. The hope, such as it is, is that those portions of Hamas that are oriented toward policy and governing will start to evolve and become more important than the militant wing. Again: Fatah was the political wing of the PLO and all of a sudden the view is that they are the “peace” party (again, an oversimplification). If the PLO evolved to that point, there is reason to think it can happen to other militant groups. Indeed, whether it is the Sinn Fein (Ireland) or the M-19 (Colombia), to name a two, there are examples of militant groups evolving into political parties. Indeed, unless there is going to be a total elimination of every single member of Hamas, it is clear that the hope is that at some point its members would evolve away from violence towards politics.

That the Hamas victory creates problems is undeniable. That I would have preferred Fatah to remain in control is certainly the case. However, I take some solace that Hamas comes to power through legitimate elections, not a military take-over and that they will have to govern. Governing has a way of changing organizations, especially when they are beholden to voters.

Let’s put it this way: of the possible scenarios, this is far from the worst. The collapse of any semblance of democratic norms would have been far worse, as would have been a violent take-over of the PA, as in either case there would have been no sense of accountability to anyone. When a groups takes power by force, the only challenge to their power is other violence. Had Hamas used guns to achieve control, they would have been unassailable. However, if Fatah can be voted down because of lack of policy success, so can Hamas. The US and Israel, despite the obvious problems with Hamas, need to walk a tightrope that denounces Hamas’ political violence while encouraging the entrenchment of democratic norms.

Could this all degenerate into war? Certainly. Will Hamas have to eventually deal with the fact that Israel isn’t going anywhere? Yes. Perhaps the best way for the latter to come about instead of the former is for the leadership of Hamas to be in a position to have to deal with practical reality, something that one has to do in government, but one doesn’t have to do sitting on the outside looking in, where radical theories can sound far better of an option than they tend to be be when actually applied.

I am not pollyannish about the chances for success, but would recommend caution in declaring that the Palestinians have chosen war and that the response from the US and Israel should be as stark as Morrisey suggests. However, one guesses that his position will be echoed by many in the next several days.

h/t: OTB

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Filed under: Elections, Middle East | |

7 Comments

  1. Hamas Rising

    Despite the shock and surprise radiating around the internet today, no one should be surprised that Hamas won and won big in the Palestinian elections. Fatah lacks the support of the masses, which this election verified. Even if Arafat were

    Trackback by Weapons of Mass Destruction — Thursday, January 26, 2006 @ 9:47 am

  2. Palestinian People to the World: "What can we say? We're some FIESTY sumbitches, ain't we?"

    From CNN:The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which has said it favors the destruction of Israel, won an apparent victory in Palestinian legislative elections, officials said Thursday, reshaping the political landscape of the Middle East. "We h…

    Trackback by protein wisdom — Thursday, January 26, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

  3. Grrrr . . . . I want to respond (I agree with your facts, but take issue with some of the anlysis), but this stupid policy forbids. I dont’ know if I can stand this.

    I admit it: I’m a junkie. Soft-core, but still a junkie.

    Comment by Scott Gosnell — Thursday, January 26, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  4. I suspected you wouldn’t fully agree.

    (BTW, in terms of sticking it to The Man–there’s always the old blog it now, post it later option…).

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, January 26, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  5. Hamas Leader Requests Meeting With Abbas - Yahoo! News

    Hamas Leader Requests Meeting With Abbas
    A senior Hamas leader said Friday he has asked Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to meet within two days to discuss the formation of the next government.
    The leader, Ismail Haniyeh, told worshippers at a mosqu…

    Trackback by A Knight's Blog — Friday, January 27, 2006 @ 6:39 am

  6. Well said doc.

    I missed the news for a few days and when I wanted to read a well thought-out / reasoned view of the Hamas thing, I knew you’d be one of the best places to look. I was right.

    Not having as much time for news as I once did, I even more appreciate your insights.

    Rush Limbaugh jokes about it… But it genuinely saves me the time of thinking it thru.

    thanks

    P

    Comment by Paul — Friday, January 27, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  7. Paul,

    Thanks for the kind words and good to hear from you.

    Drop me an e-mail as to how things are going.

    S

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, January 27, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

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