OxBlog

Thursday, January 26, 2006

# Posted 4:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

UF, WELL THAT WASN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! When I wrote in yesterday's post that the real politics began when all of us went to sleep, I hadn't meant to be quite so prescient. After months of predictions from all parties and Israel slotting Hamas in at a likely 40-45 per cent showing, and Marwan Barghouthi's perhaps statesmanlike call earlier this week upon Hamas's supporters before the polls to form a government of national unity after them, it became clear in early hours Hamas has won a most solid and unexpected victory, aided by turnout substantially higher in Gaza, its most reliable source of support, than in the West Bank.

It's not clear anyone wanted this, least of all Hamas, who in assuming the administration of the Palestinian national authority's creaking and often corrupt bureaucracy single-handed in a moment when its sole lifeline of European and other international support appears threatened, may just have stumbled into the biggest molasses patch the Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah has ever faced. Unlike the Lib Dems of 1985, Hamas did not go to its constituencies to prepare for government. It had prepared for a coalition, or possibly pristine opposition, but not this.

Official results, once promised for 9 am, now will come out at the end of the day; Hamas is claiming 70 seats, in a 132-member parliament. PM Qureia has announced the mass resignation of his government. Israel, of two minds during the elections about Hamas's participation with a resulting policy incoherence, now is subsumed in recrimination for having permitted the balloting to take place at all (through its veto point, over East Jerusalemite voting). The EU and US are still sorting out their positions: with the EU External Relations Commissioner saying Brussels will work with any government that 'is prepared to work by peaceful means' (had she been from Whitehall, she might have added a 'solely' in there), and with the White House keeping mum on PA funding and reiterating America will not negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violent resistance and recognises Israel's right to exist. The latter - unlikely to happen as it contravenes the Hamas Charter: the farthest Hamas indicated during the elections it was willing to go was to talk of long term, perhaps '100-year', hudna. The Quartet, due to meet Monday to discuss how to deal with this, is for its part on record against allowing PA cabinet status for anyone party which had not renounced violence or recognized Israel's right to exist.

The mood here, so recently jubilant, suddenly is somber. In Ramallah we are promised a press conference at 7, with final results, and Hamas has said it will declare its intentions after. Does Hamas continue to moderate in its now desperate need to keep foreign aid flowing? It may still yet form a coalition, to provide internationally palatable, unbearded, faces for Europeans and Americans to talk to. Khaled Mashaal has telephoned Abu Mazen to offer a coalition partnership; while Saeb Erekat indicated Fateh would go into opposition, Nabil Sha'ath said Fateh leaders would meet at 5 to determine their future. Watch this space.
(35) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Often it seems that the worst possible outcome in the Middle East can hardly be any worse than all the others. Hamas will fail even more miserably than Fatah at running a society competently, and thus discredit itself; it will do a decent job and thus be forced to grow up and take responsibility for things it blames on the Israelis; or it will create another Islamic nightmare state, on the other side of a wall from an Israel in a stronger position to starve it out and retaliate with impunity. Any of these, frankly, at least has the benefit of being educational and advancing the process in a way that endless talks and feints from Arafat never did.
 
The only glimmer of a silver lining in this is that it will be easier for Israel to kill the Hamas leaders once they are all ensconsed in the PA government buildings.
 
So if these elections are certified as free and fair, Israel is officially no longer the only democracy in the region, right???
 
The ANC in South Africa was arguably a terrorist organization before they came to power after the end of apartheid. (I am in no way suggesting that the apartheid was legit, btw)

After a decade in power, they have moderated quite a bit, however.
 
Don't forget the rule of law and civil rights. They're part of democracy, too.

But if the rule of law and civil rights are respected in the PA, I will be the first to add it to the list of democracies in the region (Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, [almost] Iraq.)
 
I sense a lot of optimism on the part of Patrick and David that Hamas will run its course and the Palestinians will tire of the same old Islamist rhetoric, Israel-blaming and violence. But I'm not sure if there are any encouraging examples of this in the region. Iran seemed to be going that way, and then went backward. The issue is organization and leadership. Secular democratic forces just aren't well-organized in the Arab world. And with the exception of Ayman Nour and a handful of other activists, secular democrats have few respectable leaders. Maybe that will change, and after five or six years of Islamists in government in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the people will turn against them. But I fear that the opposite will happen, and that the Islamist forces will put an end to the democratic process that brought them to power, and thus reify a new, anti-American, pro-terrorist posture in the region.
 
I agree with Michael. This is not a good thing, but the only thing, that will show the world what a Palestinian state looks like from the inside out. We were paying off the Tony Sopranos of Fatah with Parisian houses and Swiss bank accounts; the long delay of the inevitable has ended.
 
All Things Beautiful TrackBack A Dark Victory

"My friend Patrick Belton @ Oxblog is live blogging the event, brave boy that he is..."
 
There is sweet irony in that Hamas now will have to be responsible for the mundane such as trash collection. It will be responsible for taxes, economic growth and will have to occupy municipal buildings. It will have to put up or shut up. Those in the West that think democracy is the answer will get to watch "sausage being made". It should be entertaining.
 
I don't think anyone knows what they are going to do in the short run or medium run. Israel has not yet crystallized a long-term vision. Hamas has (Auschwitz in Muslim drag) but getting there may conflict with the minimal short term goals that would be necessary to do it (ending the very anarchy that permiited them to get this far in the first place).

This reminds me of those movies where all the good guys and all the bad guys stumble across each other, pull out their guns and aim them at each other, and then, for one, two, three loooong seconds, in complete and deafening silence, nobody moves.

----

citizen grim: the ANC did not declare that the Lions and Rotary Clubs (I am not making this up) were put of a world wide Jewish-Zionist conspiracy or call, literally, for the extermination of literally every white person to please God (as Hamas' Charter promises the Jews).
 
Let's remember our history here. A small regional anti semitic party tried revolution and failed. It joined the political process as a progressive party intent on stopping the political chaos after war and economic depression. It gradually grew in size and power until it controlled the government. It then went on to kill 6 million Jews.

While I agree that Hamas must put up a government that can run the country and that this seems impossible, have a relative unified populace will enable it to try to succeed in the short term. Remember, it only took Hitler 6 years to start WWII. JS
 
Seems anonymous above never finished those history books. Even though it had been degraded after WWI, Nazi Germany had what was arguably the second or third most powerful military on the PLANET. Today, Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world. Israel could steamroll all of Gaza if it wants, the only thing stopping it is its own sense of moderation and international reaction. Fear not though, if Hamas fails to moderate in order to govern effectively, and Israel sees it as a threat that a wall and occasional IDF forays can't handle, Israel will have few qualms about using its military, and I promise you, it will win.
 
It’s very difficult to find anything positive in the recent Hamas terror-group victory in the Palestinian elections. After all, we are talking about one of the most ruthless terror organizations in the entire world with close ties to Hezbollah of Lebanon and the fanatic Mullah’s of Iran. It is truly astonishing and telling that over half of the entire Palestinian electorate felt comfortable voting for this overt terrorist organization that demands Israel’s complete destruction.

Now, the Neocon knows that politically correct folks like Dennis Ross, pencil-pushers at the State Department and others, will undoubtedly describe this election as a vote for “change,” or a vote “against corruption,” or a vote for “improved Social Services.” These are all, of course, laughable grasps at wishful thinking.

So what is the bright side of this election? The Neocon Express, always looking for sunshine in dark places, has been searching far and wide for anything positive that may come out of this election, and finally has found something deep down in the bottom of the barrel: CLARITY & TRUTH.

Until now, it was entirely possible for the PC crowd to perpetuate the pretension that they represented majority opinion and that their grand schemes were not built on a delusional house of cards. Hamas was portrayed as the lunatic fringe and everyone was assured that the vast majority of Palestinians, like Israelis, were simply interested in Peace if their basic grievances were addressed. Both parties were authoritatively declared to be two sides of the same coin.

Of course, the Palestinian side had never truly been tested as to their real sentiments, that is, until yesterday, when Palestinians went to the polls in their first TRULY CONTESTED election; and now we can all see the results. Now for the first time we can see the real picture, exposed in all its naked uglyness. So much for the two-sides-of-the-same-coin theory.

That, the Neocon believes is the glimmer of positive news to emerge from the Palestinian elections: Clarity and truth. Now we all know, if only for a short period of time until the PC crowd scramble to muddle up the picture as quickly as possible, where true sentiments lay on the Palestinian side. All the talk about a vote for “change,” and a vote against “corruption” and all the other non-sense cannot cover up the plain truth: This was primarily a vote for terror.

The Neocon believes that it is far better to deal with reality than with fantasy. Peace will never be achieved if the truth is not laid out bare for all to see, and to deal with it as it is and not as we wish it were. Clarity will let us see, and the truth will set us free.
Joe Gelman
www.neoconexpress.blogspot.com
 
So if these elections are certified as free and fair, Israel is officially no longer the only democracy in the region, right???

Again, there was already Lebanon. The recent Lebanese elections were free and fair.
 
While the Neocon may be correct to infer that Palestinian support for Hamas really is a vote for terrorism and not a vote against Fatah corruption, this doesn't really help matters in any material way. So we have "clarity and truth" about Palestinian attitudes (despite a concurrent poll of Palestinians that found a large majority do NOT believe in Hamas' vision of destroying Israel). But do we have "clarity and truth" from the Israeli side? Do THEY want a viable Palestinian state next door, or do they want to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians and colonize the West Bank with Jews, as the Likud platform has called for?
 
Why is everybody so surprised at a Hamas victory in a democratic Paestinian Election? Leaving aside the matter of GWB's mission to bring more "democracy" to the world, every Arab and muslim in the middle east knows and understands the motivations of the Zionists, be they christian or judaic. They see the US invasion of Iraq under false pretences as another brick in the wall, bringing the "Rivers of Babylon" closer to the nation of Israel.

There are good reasons to ponder what has happened in the middle east. GWB and his administration should probably have been a little more careful what they wished for when it came to democracy and Palestine, but there can be no question that the invasion of Iraq did more to promote a Hamas victory at the polls than all the other electoral motivators combined.

All of which gets down the heart of what happened on 9/11. The inability to deal with the Palestinian issue has resulted in 50 years of terrorism, death, and injury to thousands. We can enact "anti-terror" legislation but how will that stop one person with a back pack ready to die for a cause, real or perceived, can kill and injure many innocents during the rush hour on public transport.

We need to remove the motivation. People do not choose to die for money, fame, or god. People choose to die to fight injustice, for their country, or when they have nothing left to lose except their lives.

Until we solve that problem in Palestine there will be no end to the suicide bombings, and Iraq will only only bring more of the same.
 
freedom to Belarus wrote:

"Fear not though, if Hamas fails to moderate in order to govern effectively, and Israel sees it as a threat that a wall and occasional IDF forays can't handle, Israel will have few qualms about using its military, and I promise you, it will win. "

Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Iraq are all cases where a vastly superior military have failed to subdue a domestically based "insurgency". How can they when you cannot distinguish your military enemy from the local population and your enemy is ready and willing to die for their cause? If the Israelis thought for a second they could steamroll the Palestinians they would have already done so. Their hesitation has more to do with common sense than with any self restraint where their mortal enemies are concerned.
 
Anonymous,

None of those other insurgencies pose quite the same existential threat Hamas and others could possibly pose to Israel. They're goal is primarily change of regime or independence, not the destruction of the state. You're right, it's common sense. Thats essentially what I meant by sel-restraint. Should Israel ever begin to feel that its very existence is threatened (which, although it takes serious hits now, it isn't) then a few well placed bombs over Gaza and some troops entering on the ground would go a long way towards solving the problem. That they don't do that now is obvious - common sense, self restraint, the probability that the consequences would be far worse than the benefit they'd get from it, the absence of any need to go that far, all of which is true. Should Hamas begin to show any real threat to the existence of Israel, beyond mere words, then Israel would be willing to get tough, regardless of the consequences or intl opinion.
 
"Should Hamas begin to show any real threat to the existence of Israel, beyond mere words, then Israel would be willing to get tough, regardless of the consequences or intl opinion. "

The view of the Palestinians is that Israel is already getting tough and have been doing for years. Demolitions, targeted assassinations, arbitrary detentions, and so on. That would also explain why Hamas won the election with a landslide!
 
I want Bibi in power. He's the only one who believes in ending Israeli dependence on the U.S. government. We should tell both Egypt and Israel that the payola goes down by 20% for each of the next five years, after which nothing. Why? Because all those bribes for all those years not only didn't work, they raised the carnage level and led to children being used as suicide bombers.
 
The Palestinians have made a choice. They will have to live with that choice. If Israel is smart, they will just be still and do nothing but build their fences a little higher and boot out all Palestinians other than those that are Israeli citizens and focus on protecting the Jews in the West Bank. Sharon was correct in taking unilateral action as the Palestinians seem to value their hatred of Israel more that they desire of country of their own and no real negotiation is possible. Perhaps they will tire someday of their way of life and make another choice. In the meantime, Israel and the US just need to let them implode. As bad as the PA was, Hamas is bound to be worse in taking care of the people. It is sad for them but out of whatever motivation, it really doesn't matter, they chose Hamas they will have to look to Hamas to pick up their trash. Hamas has a choice also - to govern, take take of their people, or Not. Right now we should just let it go and let them do what they will thus suffer the consequenses. Opinionated Lady
 
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