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The outcome of the Palestinian elections shows a classic paradox of democracy: the victory of an undemocratic and extremist party. The voting was fair and democratic, and more than in the elections of 1996, there was a vivid campaign and the Palestinian people really had something to choose.
The Palestinians had probably one of the most democratic elections ever seen in the Middle East, and that is something to be proud of. Yet for many Israelis this is a grey day and in their eyes the result proves that most Palestinians don't want peace. The Israeli government has said from the start that it would not talk to Hamas and that there will be no negotiations with a government in which Hamas participates. Hamas has carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks in Israel since the 1990's, and wants to liberate all of Palestine through Jihad. The Hamas Charter labels all negotiations a waste of time, and says no Palestinian is ever allowed to give up one inch of historical Palestine. It harbors the worst anti-Semitic propaganda:
It is no wonder that an organization that says such things, is not viewed as a peace partner by the world's only Jewish state, and Abbas' remarks, that there is nothing for Israel to be afraid of, sound a bit surrealistic:
Hamas did fire hundreds of missiles at Israel from the Gaza Strip and has smuggled extensive amounts of weapons. In comparison: after the killing of Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantisi in the spring of 2004, the willingness to carry out attacks against Israel was enormous, yet it took them 5 months before they suceeded in doing so. The difference with Islamic Jihad is that the latter is much smaller and supported by Iran and probably more difficult for Israel to infiltrate. So, according to most Israelis, the truce was no sign from the side of Hamas of a willingness to compromise, but a tactical decision aimed at strengthening themselves for a future confrontation. The fact that Hamas entered the political process would have been a landmark if they had abandoned the armed option. In a democracy, it cannot be that political parties carry their own arms.
To conclude, although there are some signs of pragmatism they don't point in the direction of accepting Israel's right to exist and of a willingness to negotiate in stead of fight.
Regarding Israel's refusal to talk to Hamas, some people refer to the PLO in the 1980's. It also refused to recognize Israel and to renounce terror. It also called for Israel's destruction in it's charter, and it was also viewed by Israel and the USA as a terrorist organization. Yet it changed and entered negotiations that filled many people with hope. For its part Israel understood that a solution to the conflict is not possible without negotiating with the Palestinians, with their representatives to be more precise. It is certainly possible that Hamas would change in a similar way, but that is something different from assuming it is making such a change right now, and that therefore Israel should treat it as such
Israel decided to talk to the PLO after it recognized Israel and renounced terror. A difference with the PLO is that Hamas is an islamic fundamentalist organization, and it is difficult to make compromises if Allah or God is behind you. That is also why it is unlikely that the Jewish religious fanatics will ever change. An Israeli government led by the National Religious Party and Moshe Feiglin is as unlikely to be ever able to make peace with the Palestinians as the Hamas is to compromise with Israel. The land is theirs, as promised by God and written down in their holy books.
The comparison with the PLO in the 1980's reveals another problem: despite the optimism and hope of that time, the peace process failed and an important reason for that was the fact that the PLO's recognition of Israel and renouncing of terror were not sincere. Arafat continued making bellicose statements in Arabic and supported terror, at least during the second intifada. To say it cynically, one can doubt if it is so much better for Israel to have to deal with a wolf in sheep's clothing than with a plain one.
Some cynical commenters say that there will not be much of a difference with a Hamas run government in the territories, as Israel didn't view Abbas as a peace partner either, and refused to negotiate with him until he disarmed the terrorists, something he was unwilling and probably also unable to do. Moreover, that might be one of the reasons for Hamas' popularity: Fatah, the main party in the PLO, has accomplished little during 10 years of talking with Israel. The only real concession was the disengagement, and that was not carried out as a result of a negotiated settlement, but unilaterally, because Israel was no longer willing to take the deaths it suffered in Gaza. Among Palestinians it is widely believed to be due to Hamas' 'armed struggle', not Abbas willingness to compromise. According to these people Israel owes the Hamas victory to itself.
It is certainly true that Israel could have done more to strengthen Abbas, but people who blame Israel for the failure of the peace process forget that it was Arafat who refused to accept Clinton's bridging proposals in 2000, and that the second intifada was planned months before Sharon's visit to the temple Mount, and was actively supported by the PA (see Myth 4 & 5). Abbas was more sincere in achieving peace with Israel than Arafat, but it is very hard for Israel to make a deal with someone who says that he is too weak to keep it.Yet the new centrist Kadima party (the most popular party since it's creation in november according to all polls) announced that it was willing to resume talks with Abbas after the elections, and it even spoke about some devision of Jerusalem. The victory of Hamas might change Israeli positions however, and strengthen the right. All those people who talk about the need for Israel to strengthen Abbas, tend to forget that Israeli moderates also need to be able to show to the public that their approach of making compromises is better for the country than the hawkish position of the right. The second intifada decimated the Israeli peace movement. What will a Hamas victory and possible third intifada do to the rest of it?
Despite Hamas' extremist views on Israel, one cannot say that the Palestinians voted for it because of its bellicose stance towards Israel. Probably the main reasons were frustrations with their daily lives, for which they held Fatah responsible, and the latter's widespread corruption, whereas Hamas provided social services, education and healthcare to the needy. Hamas also had a better organized election campaign, whereas in Fatah there was a lot of rivalry and different candidates campaigning against each other. However, the rhetoric about 'martyrs dying for the Palestinian homeland' and 'the need to kill the evil Zionists' and so on is very popular within the Palestinian street. For too many Palestinians, all Israelis have horns and a tail.
I have already heard left-wing commentators explain that Israel must accept the democratic outcome of the Palestinian elections and be willing to negotiate with whoever emerges as the new Palestinian leadership. A Dutch sodeletedt politician even said: "Hamas is willing to talk to Israel, if not the Palestinians wouldn't have elected them." It is not the first time that Europeans think to know what Israel should do and what is good for peace. I sometimes wish that these persons would be Israeli PM for just one month to find out that 'from there, things look different than from here', but I don't think that would be very good for Israel.
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Replies: 4 comments
I'm not so sure having Hamas dragged into the mainstream government is that bad of a decision. Doesn't Israel have Orthodox parties that hold a great deal of power in the Knesset? Sometimes peace can only be achieved if the extremists on both sides realize that a solution must be formulated. That said, Israel didn't help Fatah with its actions. The same check points, settlement building, ect. If you were a Palestinian Farmer and your land was cut into half by a "wall" and your entire livelihood depended on your land, what would you do? Vote for a corrupt government where officals are driven around in BMW's or vote for the local health care facility run by Hamas. Hamas uses a great deal of rhetoric but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, they will have to accept a two state solution. The question is when will Israel accept the same solution? Every sane individual knows the formula. 77% of historical Palestine will be Israel the remaining 23% will be the State of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza and E.Jerusalem). When all parties have concluded that this forumla is the only resolution - they will not only build two thriving states, they will be the envy of the entire Arab World. Two democratic nations in the midst of Kings, Amirs, Dictators, ect. If I were Israel, I would cease the moment and make a true and just peace with the Palestinians.
Posted by George @ 01/28/2006 06:08 PM CST
I confess: I am European and I am optimist, although I'm not left-wing. I think one should not loose the view for solutions. Yes, Hamas is an agressive and a radical movement. But this fact can also be a chance for Israel and the peace process, according to the fact that "only a left-wing party can make successful right-wing politics and vice versa". The Fatah government had the great disadvantage of a strong and more radical Hamas opposition. The fear of loosing the people's confidence to the extremists was always present and an obstacle to important, but sometimes unpopular decisions. A government led by Hamas doesn't have this problem: (At the moment), there is no opposition that more radical than the government itself.Theoretically, Hamas can make bigger steps towards peace than any other government before. Another side effect of negotiations could be the weakening of Hamas, if the Palestinian people loose their illusions about the abilities of their new leaders. Therefore, Israel should not exclude peace talks with the Hamas.
Posted by Severin @ 01/29/2006 09:18 PM CST
You wrote: "Hamas uses a great deal of rhetoric but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, they will have to accept a two state solution."
You wrote: " Doesn't Israel have Orthodox parties that hold a great deal of power in the Knesset?"
You wrote: "Every sane individual knows the formula. 77% of historical Palestine will be Israel the remaining 23% will be the State of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza and E.Jerusalem)"
Posted by Ratna @ 01/30/2006 11:56 AM CST
This is a Site;for understanding beetwen the People of differents cultur;but for Peace,and lyberty for all.//http://www.publimatic.com/-dieseite- http://www.publimatic.com/espectroparlasur
Posted by Raul @ 01/30/2006 08:10 PM CST
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