Thursday, January 19, 2006

# Posted 12:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

OUT DRINKING IN EAST JERUSALEM last night, and headed to Ramallah today in the kind tow of the correspondent of the Spanish news agency. Will post at length when back.

I must say I'm quite as taken aback by Palestinian hospitality as I am by Israeli gregariousness. These people are, on both sides, much nicer to write about than rioting banlieues chaps.

Skulking about the strategic studies centres of their universities, the Israelis seem of two minds when it comes to Hamas's projected strong showing in the polls - either it won't be that bad, as they'll likely moderate and deal cleanly with administration and garbage collection, or it's an end to Oslo and the start of a good bit of jihad; there's also the possibility the lads in green might accidentally win outright, which no one seems to want, least of all possibly Hamas. ('Much easier to keep your virginity when you're not in power,' was how an analyst at the Jaffee Centre put it to me.) It's only the prospect of Hamas in the morning that's made the Al-Mustawbal faction of Marwan Barguhthi and Mohammad Dahlan form a united list with the Fateh old guard of Tunisian Abus, though even so Fateh have lost some of their cleverer cleaner people such as Salam Fayyad. The two strands of Israeli thought appeared in the policy incoherence over East Jerusalemite participation in the elections, as close to a veto point over the elections that the government of Israel held. It'd be a nice game for the Iranians if they could use the Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam paramilitaries as deterrence against an Israeli air strike on their nuclear facilities, but most of the watchers in Israel think Hamas is too independent a movement to serve as anyone's catspaw. The big question of the day is how they'd govern - unless I'm wrong, they'd be the first ikhwan organisation actually to enter power in the Middle East, and something of a test case for how Islamist parties would respond to more comprehensive political involvement. One Israeli professor thought out loud perhaps it was necessary to cross the stream to two states in two steps, and perhaps Hamas today is analogous to the PLO of thirty years ago; so in 2030, we could then expect them to be accomodationist, corrupt and irrelevant also. The elections are also meant to further the weakening of the external leadership, such as Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, in favour of theoretically subordinate people on the ground such as Mahmoud al-Zahar in Gaza. Possible storylines: how the Ramallah leadership is viewing the change of regime in Jerusalem; in Gaza, going to UNRWA to see how they're keeping up social service provision amid the chaos of the withdrawal; and going around East Jerusalem for residents' response to the voting story, which didn't seem terribly to preoccupy my new friends at the Askadinya last night. I'm most of all interested in tackling Hamas but not yet entirely sure how; there are a few young reformists like Saadeh Shalabi who just won in the Ramallah suburb of Beitunia, but they're new recruits (he's an electrical engineer at Al-Quds University) chosen for their clean hands and possibly less likely to be in touch with the higher processes of the organisation. Commentors' thoughts welcome! For my part, off to the Damascus Gate to catch a ride to Ramallah - see you lads from there!
(4) opinions -- Add your opinion

The Sudanese Islamists are Ikhwan-ish, and they came to power. So, HAMAS is not the first.
although it seems somewhat against your preferences, please be careful and safe.
Change in regime in Jerusalem?

What is the IDF planning a coup? Have the Haredim found a messiah?

Or do you mean a change of GOVERNMENT in Jerusalem?

I get very annoyed when folks confuse regime change with government change (like anti-bush bumper stickers that said regime change begins at home - news, folks, if Kerry had one that would have been a govt change, not a regime change)

Id expert better from an Oxford Political Scientist who helps run one of the best blogs around.

Of course you might have meant that the changes in the Israeli party system are so great as to amount to regime change - if so i think you need to explain that.
So it's still up to UNRWA to "provide social services" after all these years. But, but, I thought that Hamas was a "social service agency", not just a terrorist group. And how about Mrs. Arafat's billions? Oh, but that would be awkward to mention. Seriously, until the Palestinians pay for themselves, no one will take them seriously as a nation.
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