"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

The Hamas Victory-What does it mean for Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East as a whole?

The recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian Territories marks a watershed event, not only in Palestinian territories, but in the Middle East in general. The long ruling Fatah party is now out of power except for its democratically elected President, Abbas, whose resignation is being called for by his own people. The new Prime Minister and Parliament will have Hamas as the majority party. What does this new government mean for Israel, the Palestinian, and the Middle East as a whole?

Democracies for good and bad, elect leaders the people think can solve their problems. Unlike dictatorships, the people are directly responsible for the results of their actions. The major issues for individual Palestinians are the economy, personal security, and independence in that order. Hamas’ recent victory shows a shift in priorities of Palestinians. Abbas election a short while ago was a result of Palestinian priorities being independence, economy, and security.

After Arafat’s death, the Palestinian people lost their long-time defacto leader not only on the domestic scene, but also on the international scene. The first Palestinian election was thus mostly externally focused. Specifically, they voted for a person that could replace Arafat on the diplomatic front to keep Palestinian demands in the world stage. Abbas filled that vacuum in international politics, but the Fatah party did not fill the vacuum on the domestic side. Fatah never gave Palestinians the economic or physical security they sought. However, they have gained much independence.

Hamas’ victory marks a shift of Palestinians’ focus on their own economy and physical security. Independence no longer the principle concern among Palestinians. They are now in control of the Gaza Strip. They will shortly be in control of parts of the West Bank as Israel continues its unilateral disengagement strategy. For all its gains over control of its own territory, the vast majority of Palestinians are no better off in terms of economics and security. Unemployment is rampant. Internal violence is a way of life. Palestinians have killed, wounded, or maimed far more of their own people than Israelis ever have.

As the US and other nations contemplate pulling funding from Palestinians, Palestinians will now look to Hamas to ensure Palestinian internal well-being. Will Hamas be able to fix roads, produce jobs, and provide security for Palestinians from themselves? This will be Hamas’ test as Fatah can now stand on the sidelines and point fingers. Corrupt Fatah leaders failed miserably to provide for their people and their people rightly voted them out of power. Now Hamas will be put to the test. Two outcomes are possible. Hamas will either rise to and meet this challenge or they will not. If they do meet the challenge, it will be all the better for the Palestinians and the Middle East in general. The most probable result; however, is the corrupt Hamas faction, like the corrupt Fatah faction, will fail to provide these most basic of Palestinian needs. At this point, Palestinian leaders will have a difficult time pointing to Israel for its continued woes. Palestinians are tiring of the intifada that has not produced the desired independence, economic benefit, and physical security.

Over the near future, Fatah will undergo a rapid change as they examine the reasons for their defeat and politically attack Hamas. They will undoubtedly reach the conclusion they must provide for the economic and physical security of their people while continuing to push for further independence from Israel. Then next Palestinian election will see Hamas out of power and either Fatah back in power or a new political party rise up to provide for their people. This fledgeling democracy, like Iraq, is just beginning to understand the power of this form of government. Democracy is government by the people and for the people. Given that the people only had a choice between two bad alternatives, they chose the party our of power to solve their problems. But as stated above, the militant Hamas will most doubtedly fail to provide the economic and physical security they were elected to provide.

So where does this leave the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Other Middle East countries will continue to support whatever Palestinian group will seek Israel’s destruction down to the last Palestinian. This will not produce any possitive economic or physical security benefits for the Palestinians. As such Palestinians will look inward for this security. Both Hamas and Fatah will moderate their external rhetoric over time as their people force them to focus not on Israel’s destructon but on their own internal security issues.

Israel will force Palestinian “political” parties to moderate due to their now unique circumstance; they both are part and parcel of a fixed “state” government. With a Fatah president and a Hamas Prime Minister and Parliament, Israel has a government that it can retaliate against for any terrorist activity inside its borders. It literally can strike a fixed state government site where before it was limited to Palestinian camps. If Hamas and Fatah do not yet recognize this important fact, they soon will.

In the short term, Israel will continue to withdraw from Palestinian territories giving Palestinians more control over their own security. Hamas will at first and rather publicly use its new found power to challenge Israel. Israel will respond in kind, producing devastating results on the newly elected Palestinian government. Neither Hamas nor Fatah have the ability to respond in kind and will have to either moderate or disappear from the political landscape. The Palestinian people will look to countries Iraq, that beacon of democracy in the Middle East, and ask the question important question. Why are they so much better off than us? Is it because of Israel or is it our own doing? Like Iraq, it will be their own doing no matter the spin their leaders or others attempt to put on it. Palestinians have just proved they understand how to hold their leaders accountable. Just look at Fatah’s recent defeat.

Over the long term, Hamas, Fatah, or another rising political party will moderate and learn that a democracy is a government by the people, for the people. Iran will undoubtedly prop the Palestinians up in the short-term, as will Syria. Iran cannot match the monies Palestinians currently receive from democratic governments. Its possible referral to the Security Council will only accelerate this fact. Syria also has its own internal problems and will fail. Economic security for Palestinians will only come from trade with other Middle East nations. Trade is mandatory for a the economic success of a democracy, or for any government in the world. The moderated Palestinian government will have to trade with other richer states, like Lebanon, Iraq, and even Israel as its funds become limited from abroad. Israel will only trade if it is assured of its future security.

As stated, the election of Hamas puts the Palestinians in a unique situation. They can no longer actively support terrorism since Israel will have a government to retaliate against. Hamas will be forced to moderate or will find itself voted out like Fatah. Both Fatah and Hamas will be forced to establish a government for the Palestinians and not just against Israel to stay in power.

President Bush’s bold initiative to democratize the Middle East is rapidly changing the dynamics in this region. Several governments in this region are realizing they can no longer suppress their people and blame others for their plight. Like Palestinians, people, of all nationalities, want freedom. Iraq is succeeding in its fight against the externally driven insurgency. Syria lost control of Lebanon. Lebanon, as a result, is becoming another beacon of democracy. Syrians are starting to rebel, but like Iraq, may need external help to overthrow its dictator. Palestinians have solidly demonstrated to Fatah that a government either provides freedom and security for its people or it will be thrown out of power by its people. Egyptians also are forcing democracy on their government.

While Middle Eastern countries are experimenting with various forms of democracy, it must duly be noted that all are experimenting with democracy. We can thank Mr. Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative for this democratic experimentation. Some, like the Palestinians and the people of Iran, elect leaders not acceptable to the US. However, it must be understood that these democracies are slowly, but surely learning about government for the people, by the people. Like the Iranians, that are currently suffering from their own democratic choice, the Palestinians are suffering from their own choices. The much truer democracy in the Palestinian territories just threw out their corrupt politicians. Granted, they elected potentially more fanatical leaders. But Hamas will suffer the same fate as Fatah if it does not provide for its people.

As these beacons of democracy spread in the Middle East, even weak democracies, like Iran, will become more democratic. Democratic regimes have never attacked the United States. While their policies may not perfectly fit with US policy, they do not represent a military threat to the US for the most part. As such, we can only hope other new democracies in the Middle East have the power to throw out corrupt leaders, like the Palestinians just did. Even if they elect leaders that are potentially more worrisome to the US in the short-term, they will have the power in the long-term to change to leaders who truly expose democratic principles.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home