Friday, January 27, 2006

An upset in Palestine

It seems the Palestinian elections haven't turned out the way the US wanted them to. Hamas has won an outright majority, capturing at least 70 seats in the 132 seat Parliament. The Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, has already resigned, leaving the way clear for them to form a government. And constitutionally, the President has no choice but to appoint them.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how Israel reacts. They pride themselves on being "the most democratic nation in the Middle East". It remains to be seen whether they will respect the voice of the Palestinian people, or veto it with tanks and bombs.


That will depend on what Hamas does now. If it moves to make good on its policy of destroying Israel then no doubt Israel will respond in kind - but that would be self defense, not a veto of the democratic process.

But I would be very surprised if that happened. I don't expect Hamas to disavow that objective, at least not immediately. It's their maximalist negotiating position - they will have in mind what they want in return. But that art of negotiation is to not let your opponent know what that is.

They are now operating in the world of politics - of negotiaiton and compromise. I have a sneaking suspicion that both Israel and the US will quite pleased with this result. Not only does it draw a millitary group into the political process, it finally provides a Palestinian political group with the legitimacy to negotiate a final peace - something that Fatah did not have. Once Hamas says - "we will live i peace with Israel", that really will make a difference.

We will hear from the US and Europe that they will not negotiate with a group set on destroying Israel, but that is essentially their own maximailist negotiating position. An what is "we won't do this, unless you do that" if not negotiation?

Posted by Anonymous : 1/27/2006 07:58:00 AM

Neil - that is no longer their policy:

Posted by Anonymous : 1/27/2006 08:18:00 AM

No, they merely dropped it from their election manifesto - it's still their official policy. A contradiction of sorts, but that's what the situation is.

They have at present been keeping to an unofficial truce with Israel, which they will probably continue but I think it will be a while before they finally recognise Israel's righ to exist - it is after all a big card in their hand - they will want something in return.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/27/2006 08:50:00 AM

We might be surprised. It might work out well in the end. If history is anything to consider, Hamas may actually be in a better position to improve the relationship with Israel than Fatah and the PLO ever could. Here are some historical examples:

Nixon and China. Had McGovern been president in 1968, he would never have been able to seek recognition of China wihtout being painted as soft on communism. When Nixon did it, it looked like a masterstroke of foreign policy success. Similarly, Ariel Sharon was considered to be the nastiest of all the Israeli generals by the Palestinians. Yet he is the one who gave up land and removed Israelis from settlements. No one in Israel's Labour Party could ever have done that without causing the collapse of the government.

I just wonder whether a solution (apartheid-like thought it might be in creating a partition between two ethnic groups) might be better achieved by those who do not need to ever fear being painted soft on the Israelis.

One thing is interesting to note, and its this: the way in which Fatah have accepted the result and conceded defeat to Hamas. This suggests that the Palestinians may actually be embracing a democratic culture if the incumbent historical power is accepting of their defeat.

Posted by Aaron Bhatnagar : 1/27/2006 10:04:00 AM

Nixon and China is what I was thinking as well. But OTOH, I don't think Fatah were at that much risk of being portrayed as "soft" either. More "helpless"...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/27/2006 10:57:00 AM

I would just like to point out that Sinn Fein were considered a "terrorist organistation" until they gained a political voice. Maybe now more Palestinians will feel that because they have a more aggresive political voice it will no longer be necessary to commit violence to make themselves heard.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/28/2006 01:57:00 AM

If hamas makes peace with the israelis then presumably they will shed a terrorist wing and come under pressure from it - if the struggle continues for another couple of decades they will then be defeated in an election by this terrorist wing. (I hope not because this is neverending but this is what I expect - unless they are brutally repressive)

If they dont and they make terrorism the official policy of palestine either the world will abandon the palestinian cause or the israelis will be driven "to the right of attilla the hun" and put a psychopath that makes sharon look like a cuddly teddy bear in control.

I think israel and the US have it wrong though - they are commited to saying democary is legitimate the difference of course is that if a democracy attacks you you can still kill them. Hamas being in control simplifies the issue in that the government ARE the terrorists. I.e. Hamas are now the legitimate leaders of palestine let us wait and see what they do - of course if required action should be taken against them.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/28/2006 01:21:00 PM