Saturday, January 21

The Upcoming Palestinian Elections

There is an increasing amount of activity in Palestinian Street as the elections draw closer. According to the latest polls, Fatah is just easing ahead of Hamas by a very narrow margin. The chances that the gap between the two main contenders for the Palestinian Legislature will close and Hamas could become the winners.

The method of campaigning is very odd indeed. The Palestinian leadership pays lip service to democratic elections but in practice there is much rifle toting and shots fired in the air and occasionally at one another. Those who bear arms are masked gunmen of all persuasions. There is an air of total anarchy and violence. Which international observer (or group of international observers) would brave the bullets and come to oversee these elections? The naivety of many countries who wish to see a democratic electoral process unfold in the Palestinian camp without intrigue or violence will be greatly disappointed. As 25 January 2006 looms closer, so will the violence. Many of the splinter extremist Palestinian groups will do everything in their power to upset the almost moribund democratic electoral process. Islamic Jihad is an example of a terrorist group that is uncompromising even towards the Palestinian people and will step up terror against Israel in order to throw a spanner into the rather shaky democratic electoral works.

Perhaps, if by chance, these elections run smoothly and Hamas does win, it could clear the air and make a peace process with Israel more feasible. Oh! Eyebrows are being raised at this possibility! Yes! The fact that Hamas has decided to take part in the elections that have shaky foundations is a positive sign. They are trying to gain legitimacy in the eyes of their people. At the same time, they have decided to take on professional help in order to improve their image. They want to prove that they are an alternative to the present weak, corrupt and spineless Palestinian Authority. They have a clean record so far and are not tainted with corruption as the present Palestinian Authority.

Hamas is now a group in transition from being a fundamental terrorist organization to a political party that sees itself as an alternative government elected by the majority of the Palestinian electorate. There have been hints of this fundamental change in their attitude. If they win, they may show signs of pragmatism and come to terms with Israel’s existence. Much work remains in rebuilding the future Palestinian state. The present Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat, have neglected this. Corruption and anarchy is rife in Palestine and this cannot continue, as no country in the world will give much needed financial aid to the Palestinians if there is such instability coupled with corruption and bribery as at present.

Shimon Peres, who has changed his loyalties from the Labour Party and joined the Kadima Party, has even stated that Kadima will be prepared to negotiate with Hamas if they lay down their arms. As it is, Hamas has signed a truce and has not been involved in terror against Israel for quite a while now. In a way, there is a feeling of déjà vu. Prior to the Madrid Peace Conference of 30th October 1991, it was illegal for anybody to meet with the Palestinian Liberation Organization of Yasser Arafat. It was considered a terror organization. The Oslo Accords of 13 September 1993, despite its well-known failings, was a start towards the peace process. The PLO became legitimate in Israel’s eyes. We are reaching a similar stage with Hamas assuming they win the Palestinian Elections.

On the other hand, the danger that Hamas may be using its future gained legitimacy to erode Israel’s security and accelerate Israel’s destruction is also a strong possibility especially in view of what is going on in Iran under their leader Mahmoud Ahmadinajad who has been calling for Israel’s destruction. A possible alliance between Hamas, Syria and Iran is a danger to Israel. This scenario is a possibility if Hamas does not show pragmatism in recognizing Israel’s right to exist assuming that they win the elections.

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