Thursday, January 26, 2006


It was a fascinating development in the Middle East yesterday, the stunning rise to elected power which Hamas achieved yesterday over Fatah thanks to Palestinian voters. There're a lot of juicy aspects to it; let's look at some of the obvious ones.

First and foremost, its got to be an absolute shocker to the U.S. and other countries who had labeled the radical militant organization as a terrorist group (which it is). And they were democratically elected. We'll see the usual spin in the next few days: it wasn't so much a vote for Hamas as much as it was a vote against Fatah and the PA, who are corrupt and have dramatically failed the Palestinian people for so many years, blah blah blah.

The second and third things that come to mind are kind of in-your-face issues for Hamas itself.

One is the fact that part of their charter from day one was the goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth. As recently as a few days ago they were stickin' with that story. But the PA and the West Bank settlements are not exactly an autonomous, stand-alone nation. Their public infrastructure (public works, water, power) is provided mostly by, well, Israel. So the first couple of conversations with their new patron will be a bit uncomfortable. And because the PA is currently on the brink of bankruptcy other benefactors may have some tough questions before providing more aid. How's the rewrite of the charter coming boys? And that logo?

The other is the fact that transforming from a disruptive force to a governance & diplomatic entity is quite a journey. The IRA was very creative about the way they accomplished this (assuming you'd consider them successful). For sure, Hamas provides a lot of charitable aid to Muslims which most westerners are unaware of. But they are largely composed by the guns and bombs group as well (the "T" word). Its easy to start the fires, harder to manage them and put them out. It will be interesting to see if they can make the transition from a negative to a positive role. It certainly will take a lot of readjustment, and some big time patience on the part of some outsiders. Plus a change in leadership, as we have learned from the likes of Mr. Arafat.

One thing is certain at this point. If relations between Israel and the Palestinian people don't continue to improve, or if the peace process deteriorates, it can no longer be blamed solely on disingenuous leaders like Yasir Arafat or Israel. Partial blame can now be placed at the feet of the Palestinians themselves.


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