The worst scenario imaginable from Israel’s point of view (and perhaps from that of the U.S., European Union, and the UN) has occurred. Hamas had won the Palestinian Elections by an absolute majority. This means that they can form the next Palestinian Government without signing coalition agreements with other political parties. This is a great day for Palestinian democracy, which has given an opportunity for the Palestinian People to say the last word in a relatively peaceful manner. Maybe it is the positive aspect of the Palestinian elections. A form of democracy did play its part in the decision of the Palestinian People.
This is perhaps as far as it goes. Hamas has been taken by surprise no less than Fatah; this means that Israel will be changing her tactics towards the Palestinians. The EU and the US have already expressed their opposition to Hamas and have given indications that they will not negotiate with the terrorist organization. Perhaps the Hamas win has cleared the air from many points of view and this is positive. The situation between Israel and the Palestinians can now be viewed in black and white terms rather than in shades of gray. An implacable enemy is now facing Israel without any masking or two-pronged approach towards peace as under Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, the deceased Yasser Arafat. There were overtures towards peace while Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror against Israel was occurring at the same time. Hamas was responsible for the terrorist acts against Israel over the last decade if not more and had opposed all negotiations for peace with Israel. They never recognized the Oslo Accords of 1993 or Israel for that matter. Their covenant is clear about its attitude towards Israel. There does not seem much chance of them giving up the armed struggle against Israel in the near future.
From this point of view, it will be easier for Israel to act against Hamas if the latter decides to renew terrorist activity. In the past, the world adopted a conciliatory stance towards the Palestinians. The EU and the US had requested Israel to act with restraint against terror so that Mahmoud Abbas could do his job of disarming terror groups, which he never did. He knew that his position was untenable and weak. He was unable to stop the terror against Israel. Now the situation is clearer. Hamas is a terrorist organization! She still carries weapons for the “armed struggle” against Israel’s existence. She has made no conciliatory statements towards negotiations with Israel or disarming her terrorist militias.
Hamas has won the elections because of the dissatisfaction of the Palestinian People with the corrupt Palestinian Authority. The US, EU, and much of the world have poured money into Palestine. The Palestinian Authority does not seem accountable for the money. It had disappeared into the private coffers of Palestinian Authority members who became prosperous fat cats at the expense of their people. The Palestinians remained poor and economically deprived. This had given impetus to the strengthening of Hamas who had developed many social services that had helped the poverty stricken in many ways. The Palestinian Authority had created a poverty vacuum filled by Hamas. It is unlikely that the disengagement from Gaza had facilitated the catapulting of Hamas into power. Hamas gave the Palestinian People hope for a better life by personal example. Hamas, in the eyes of the Palestinian people, was not corrupt and appeared to care for their welfare. The Palestinian Authority was oblivious to their people’s woes and now they have paid the price! The Palestinian vote was an anti-Fatah vote rather than a pro-Hamas vote. The Palestinians want change and had enough of the cronyism and nepotism of the Palestinian Authority. The Hamas propaganda machine was a great success and their sweeping victory proved that. It remains to be seen whether they will become pragmatic, come to terms with Israel’s existence, and cease their terror. They have stated that they are prepared to sign a temporary cease-fire agreement or hudna with Israel on condition that Israel does not attack them. Maybe this is their form of beginning to climb down the tree of non-recognition. Who knows? Time will tell if this is the case. To date this is the only real indication of a form of non-belligerency on Hamas’s part. It is clearly not enough!
Another rather interesting observation is Hamas’s need for Mahmoud Abbas as a prop for their regime. Mahmoud Abbas does have legitimacy in the world that Hamas lacks. They need him as a go-between. He would give the human face that Hamas needs in the world while at the same time Hamas would have the option of carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel. Apart from that, Hamas has no experience in government. It was involved in terror and not in government. Many of us hope that the world will not fall for that tactic. As the situation stands now, Saeb Eraket, the Fatah representative, has stated that they will not be part of a Hamas led coalition. Inclusion of Fatah in this coalition would be bad for renewal of the peace process with Israel that is already in tatters. On the other hand, if Fatah makes recognition of Israel and disarmament of Hamas militias a precondition in negotiating a coalition agreement then it would be very positive for the future of peace in this area.
The interests of Palestine are intertwined with achieving peace with Israel. Israel supplies Palestine with electricity, wages of government workers and water. If Hamas does not renounce their aggressive covenant against Israel, the latter will take unilateral measures that would not serve Palestinian interests. They could cut their funds to the Palestinian Authority. It would be interesting to see how Hamas would still maintain their support of their people under these conditions! This scenario could result in Iran filling the financial vacuum and begin pouring funds into the Palestinian Government coffers. This could create a very hostile Iranian-Syrian-Al Qaeda axis, which would not be conducive to peace in the Middle East. The ramifications for increased terror activity against Israel and the world are clear.
An interesting development resulting from the Palestinian Elections is world determination not to negotiate or recognize Hamas until it abandons terror, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and disarms its armed terrorist militias. This gives Israel more leeway in dealing with Palestinian terror without the veiled condemnation of the world and the UN. Israel has already shown its attitude towards the latest developments which coincides with world opinion. She is prepared to negotiate with Hamas if the latter relinquishes terror, disarms and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.