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An Early response to Hamas Success


Morning of 25/1/2006

The time has come for the restructuring of the Palestinian political system. While the accumulated causes of this change grew and grew, the moment of change came like an earthquake, as a result of election results that were different from the predictions of various public opinion polls.

The public opinion polls correctly predicted that Hamas and Fatah will together get 110-120 seats. Likewise, their results would have been correct right if 100% had participated in the elections, but 22.4% did not vote, which changed a great deal. Likewise the results in the districts were very difficult to predict, because of Fatah candidates running against each other.

Now Hamas and Fatah are changing hats. Fatah is moving to the position of the opposition, or at least to the position of the second party, while Hamas apparently becomes the ruling party.

Ironically enough, it can be said that Fatah, with all the failed state system that it created. is leaving the ground now to Hamas, who will be able, if they form the government, with the discipline they have, to create a successful state system free of corruption, transparent, open for citizens, built upon the respect of institutions. In other words, we are leaving behind us now the controlled chaos that was created by Fatah warlords competing with each other, to a situation of discipline where Hamas will have an authority over all its military wings.

As a democrat I have no doubt that Hamas will be able to build successful PA systems, if they form the government. However, my problem is not with this aspect, but rather with the content of this new system, which will include a new educational system that I will not like, and it will include a new set of laws that will restrict human rights and women's rights.

Ironically again, Hamas will be able (unlike Fatah), to merge its armed groups into the new PA security forces, but these also will become, with Hamas authority, the 'Army of Palestine.' The roles of the play will be changing with this crucial difference: This army will extend the Tahdiya (calm) with Israel as Hamas leaders stated in the last few days, but will be ready on the other hand to respond to Israeli attacks. If these responses continue and escalate, the way might become open to put the Palestinian territories under a kind of international trusteeship system. Also Jordan and Egypt might move in order to prevent the spread of Islamist radicalism to their two countries. An international intervention might preserve the democratic process in Palestine. However, there is no guarantee of democracy if the Egyptians enter the picture, since they are less democratic than the Jordanians.

While Hamas as the new PA will control its armed groups, Fatah, that is moving to the opposition, might do to the new PA, what Hamas did previously, by asking to keep their arms. Moreover, Fatah Al-Aqsa Brigades might choose to attack Israel in cooperation with the Islamic Jihad in order to embarrass the new PA directed by Hamas.

Fatah armed groups will also create internal clashes with Hamas, and also between different groups of Fatah. Fatah, despite all this, might undergo disintegration after they lose their power and prestigious positions. This would be a continuation of the disintegration that began directly after the death of Fatah founder Yasser Arafat. Because of this disintegration, Fatah was under-represented because its members ran against each other in the districts, while Hamas was over-represented. One example is Jerusalem, where 21 Fatah candidates ran against each other competing over 6 seats for Jerusalem districts. This led to the success of Hamas representatives.

Walid Salem

Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office. He is also the author of books and articles on such issues as democracy, citizenship, youth rights, civil society development, Israeli-Palestinian peace-building, and the right of return. Together with Paul Scham and Benjamin Pogrund, he is author of SHARED HISTORIES: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue, Left Coast Press, 2005.

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Replies: 4 comments

I think the best opportunity for Hamas would be to name Hanan Ashrawi as Prime Minister. It would able the government to function, ease the stress of donor nations and promote a more solidfied movement to create instituations. For far too long the Palestinian people have put their hopes in the hands of people. It is time they move forth with building a State and a viable economy. The question is will Israel allow for a successful Palestinian entity? Will they continue to humiliate the population, place an economic stragulation on the economy and steal even more land. With Hanan Ashrawi as the head of the new government, Hamas will quiet some of those on the left and the secularists and truly establish a progressive Palestinian character. It is time Hamas acts for the sake of the people and not ruin this golden opportunity. Israel on the other hand needs to finally accept the fact that Eretz Israel does not and will not exist. This is not 1948 and the Palestinians are not going to go anywhere. The ball is in Israel's court. Let's pray they send it back with economic benefits and a true State. Otherwise, this conflict will continue to wage for years to come. I for one think both sides are tired and need to find a solution. The formula is there, it is time Israel implements it (67' borders = Palestine)

Posted by George @ 02/01/2006 04:38 PM CST

I'm with you George. We need a two state solution. But …rather than deal with Hamas, since that seems to be out of the question ie NO RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL is Hamas' byword, Sharon's policy of unilateralism should be taken to its conclusion. Finish the wall/fence/barrier ASAP and delimit the new borders of the Palestinian state.

When and if there is a willing partner to discuss any or all border, water, security, economic et al issues then there can be a final settlement with the Palestinians. Today there is no partner. The Western leaders yesterday made clear they have laid out a minimum position in order for Hamas to receive continued financial support. The ball has been firmly passed to Hamas. What will their response be?

Posted by Stan @ 02/02/2006 01:35 AM CST

I support the appointment of Hanan Ashrawi as a Prime Minister or at least as a Foreign Minister. There is a real need for someone with the ability and charisma of Hanan Ashrawi to address the foreign media in the west.

Hamas owes it success to an unholy alliance between Israel's prevarication and brutality on the one side, and the mismanagment of the Palestinian Authority on the other. Israel and the USA have failed to deal with the secular Arafat and the accommodating Mahmoud Abbas. Now they have to deal with the radicals of Hamas.
It is hoped that Hamas will adopt pragmatic policies and refrain from following an ideological agenda.

nehad isamil
Camberley, England

Posted by nehad ismail @ 02/04/2006 01:23 AM CST

"Israel and the USA have failed to deal with the secular Arafat and the accommodating Mahmoud Abbas. Now they have to deal with the radicals of Hamas." Come on now. What's really sad is that the Palestinian people continue to choose the worst leadership possible. Arafat was an incompetant leader who when forced to 'recoginize Israel and give up terrorism' got his wish - money and power. He made the P.A. into an armed camp with layers and layers of security services, militia, police and a terrorist arm, Al Aqsa Brigades. Now that Hamas is the Palestinians chosen representative the world should see what their real motivation has been since the beginning. The liquidation of Israel. Let the Palestinians have their way but … without the money from the E.U. and the U.S. Again, the Palestinians have taken the opportunity to miss an opportunity.

A plague on their house

Posted by Stan @ 02/04/2006 02:41 AM CST

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