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PA Elections: Hamas Victory


Fiona has a good post on the Bush reaction to the Hamas victory last nigth and its effect on the policy of democratisation, well worth reading.

The victory for Hamas has come as one of the major shocks of the year and its only a few months old. There are mixed views over what, if any, effect victory will have on the middle easy peace process and also the lives of those living in Gaza and the West Bank.

It is clear that the result has thrown up a whole load of opposition to a genuinely democratic outcome.

[from Jerusalem Post]
In response to the victory, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared during a security cabinet meeting Thursday night that any Palestinian Authority government that included Hamas would not be a partner for Israel.
[from Ynetnews]
Most Fatah members said that Hamas should be allowed to lead the PA alone, since this will force Hamas to face the challenge of securing funds for the Palestinian people, and take part in a political process which will bring an easing of conditions for the Palestinian population.

[from Haaretz]
Abbas also suggested that future negotiations with Israel would be conducted through the Palestine Liberation Organization, a possible bypass to a Hamas-led government.

The consensus seems to be that Hamas will be thorny people to deal with but must moderate in order to secure some sense of governance and order in the territory while also working toward a lasting solution to the occupation. There exists what is referred to as the pot-hole theory of democracy which suggests that once in power the perspective of radicals tends to moderate so as to best ensure that governance continues and pot holes go filled.

AS I mentioned last night, a representative of the "Third Way" party in Palestine believed that Hamas would probably begin to moderate in regard to foreign policy and slowly thaw relations with Israel and others while at the same time ruling locally with some steel. She cites Hamas as being stringent islamists and unlikely to be able to compromise on the ideology locally since activists are fighting this platform across the state.

Thus the outcome of this election looks likely to have dual effects, domestic impact and regional/international impact. The PLO have suggested that negotiations with Israel will be conducted through them as a means of bypassing the Hamas movement but to my mind that is a seriously deficient solution. The only prospect of moderating Hamas comes from a domestic desire for moderate governance, secured on the back of a feeling of general security and exposure to regional arguments. Not having Hamas as a key player in these arguments divorces Hamas from any regional moderating forces and focuses their attention on running Gaza and the West Bank, turning them into Sharia States.

[from Christian Science Monitor]
The Palestinian results, which give an organization on the US list of terrorist groups a majority in the 132-seat Legislative Council, are part of a trend across Muslim countries, experts say.

"The victory of Hamas cannot be seen in isolation from the major accomplishments of Islamists across Muslim lands," says Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. "There's a pattern here of Arab and Muslim electorates fed up with the secular governments that have failed to deliver the goods, both in economic terms and protecting the security of the homeland."

There is a solid body of opinion which is determined to look to primarily domestic issues as the reason for Hamas' victory. Indeed their record in providing charitable services puts them at once in a better position than the PLO in the eyes of Palestinian voters.

No matter what the cause of victory is, the fact is that the new governing party in Palestine is Hamas. Who on the outside is going to deal with them? Are they cruising toward isolation and further impoverishment?

The first question has two answers, what should and what might happen.
I firmly believe that Hamas can be dealt with, if not as they are, then certainly within months after some significant moves on the two-state solution. That much is the message coming from across the globe. Should Hamas refuse to budge on this, there exists a serious dilemma for the peace process.

The time to move with Hamas is now, there exists a period within which Hamas have the support of the population and any moves to bring them around a negotiating table can be assured the full backing of the Palestinian population.

However, while that outcome may be desirable, it requires of all sides a deal of magnanimity and commitment to mutually ensured peace. A set of conditions notable through their lacking in that part of the world. Many voices are pointing to the Hamas victory as affirmation of the tactics that are seen as resulting in a pullout from the Lebanon and Gaza, in the hope of securing a withdrawal from the West Bank and perhaps onwards.

Such a view sees this as a response to years of unilateral moves, which, while logical in the culture, results in a spiralling of violence. Gershon Baskin of ynetnews has an interesting piece along these lines here.

[from ynetnews]
The al-Aqsa intifada received wide public support at its outset from a public that was deeply influenced by the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. In the eyes of Palestinians, 2000 Hizbullah guerillas forced the great and mighty army of Israel to run from southern Lebanon with its tail between its legs.

Likewise, in the eyes of a large majority of Palestinians, Israel evacuated Gaza to the last grain of sand as a result of Hamas’ hitting of Israel inside and outside of Gaza. Israel left Gaza not as a result of a peace process, not as a result of negotiations, not as part of a decision to empower Mahmoud Abbas and his moderate regime. The rise of Hamas is the result of the faulty policies of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
They both recognize that the only way to reach the end of the conflict is through a negotiated process, but today, it is clear that there is no partner for negotiations on the other side.

A negotiated peace is the desired goal, the question of all questions is whether Hamas can become a negotiating partner. If they can then perhaps this is not the worst of all outcomes, if they cant, then the problems in the middle east are likely to get much worse before getting better. We cannot afford to sideline Hamas. At this point they are the popular government in the territory. The message that can be sent now to all states is that the west will engage with all democratically elected governments because they are thus democratic. This does not preculde criticism but certainly necessitates a decent calm response.

The most important goal is a legitimate and popular peace negotiated by the people's representatives on both sides. To facilitate this the early response of US, EU, Israel need to be measured calm and waiting to be convinced.

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