Palestinian Politics: Everything has changed and the results are unknown!
Note correction to Part A, see below.
In the Palestinian area municipal elections took place in four parts ending on December 15. Hamas won sweeping victories in these elections. According to Mark Heller of the Tel Aviv Universities Political and Strategic Development in Middle Eastern Hamas now controls the population of one million Palestinians while Fatah controls 700,000 (December 26, 2005).
On January 25, 2006 the Palestinian Authority held legislative elections for the first time in ten years. The election was for the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council or Parliament. The election took place in
Fatah today is a fractured amalgam of coalitions and personal networks
without a clear head or a transparent
decision-making process. Abbas heads the old wing and very popular
Barghout, jailed for five life terms (+ 40 years) heads the new wing.
The competing party is Hamas whose
incorruptability is legend (especially compared to Fatah) and social
function are well known. In the West they are more well known as a
result of their
military wing. Hamas claims to want to destroy the State of
Hamas won 76 seats while Fatah won 43; Hamas succeeded beyond all expectations. Hamas will have to adapt to a new role of responsibility.
will almost certainly have to accept a negotiated,
two-state solution with
While it is highly unlikely that Hamas will disarm, if they join the Palestinian cabinet it is also unlikely they will continue to foster suicide bombing.
Even in Jerusalem Palestinians are
ruled by the government of Israel and live in much better circumstances
the cities of the West Bank. The latter have problems surviving, in
Sheikh Mohammed Abu Tir, second on the
Hamas national list for the Palestinian parliamentary election, told
Umm Nidal also won as a Hamas candidate in the election. She is the mother of three Hamas terrorists who were killed while taking part in "martyrdom" operations, (interviewed, December 21, 2005). She has always declared: 'My sons did not commit suicide. My sons went and fought. None of them intended even accidentally to kill civilians, children or the elderly. They all resisted and confronted the enemy. They had achievements and they were martyred.'
is difficult to see how the
Javier Solana the EU foreign policy chief announced: "It would be very difficult for the help and the money that goes to the Palestinian Authority to continue to flow [if Hamas won a majority]. The taxpayers in the European Union, members of the parliament of the European Union, will not be in a position to sustain that type of political activity." The PA relies on the EU for approximately one third of its annual budget.
American administration has stated it will not
recognize any Palestinian government in which Hamas until it recognizes
Given that even these subsidy does not save the PA from its perpetual financial crisis, an abrupt halt to EU funding could sound the death knell for the Authority.
Abbas had made a strategic decision to
co-opt Hamas into the political system and grant them power sharing.
probably a wise choice given their popularity and military power. His
choice may have been to fight them and begin a civil war which he was
to loose as to win. This was a great gamble for Abbas and Fatah. Hamas
overwhelmingly; not I believe what Abbas had in mind. If Hamas had won
seats a coalition with Fatah was likely. It has been as noted by many
earthquake in Palestinian politics. The results on the impact on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict will take years to determine. Either the
Hamas has for years been not only a terrorist organization but equally a social service organization. It helps the Palestinian poor with medical, educational, welfare, housing and other social services. Hamas seems to represent a substantial body of the popular will in Gaza and the West Bank. In addition they are known to be honest and incorruptible. There platform motto was ‘reform and change’. Voters likely preferred them to help solve the internal Palestinian problems; improving the level of teaching, health care, welfare services and improving the level of police and the judicial system. Whether they can improve the economy, a key problem is unclear.
The election is more a rejection of an
old tired corrupt and inefficient party – Fatah – than about the peace
As Mahmoud Zahar the leader of Hamas in
Except for relating to
Some believe that the end of one party rule in Palestinian politics and the reduction of corruption will reorganize and moderate Palestinian politics and make a negotiated settlement more likely (Haim Malka, The Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, in The Washington Quarterly of autumn 2005). Can a Hamas controlled government control the lawlessness in Gaza and some of the West Bank cities? The lawlessness is controlled by Al Aqsa, a Fatah renegade brigade, and local war lords. Hamas as a government can not allow lawlessness.
Can Hamas change over time to be less a
terrorist organization and more a political organization. There is one
example of an organization that has so converted – the IRA and its
wing Sinn Fein. Every situation is different. The political wing began
early twentieth century. It was unsuccessful and in 1969 it established
terrorist wing. The combination of terrorism and politics eventually
and a semi-independent government established in
Hizbollah is a terrorist organization
The Muslim Brotherhood (the original
Islamic party and the father of Hamas) in
I recognize the differences between
Unlike Hizbollah who is a small
minority in the Lebanese Parliament, Hamas will control the Palestinian
Legislative council. Can they be considered more like the Turkish
which won their elections?
Can a Pariah become a political Player? Hamas changing its stripes should be viewed with skepticism, but not rejected.
What will happen to Hamas when it forms
a government? Does Hamas need to recognize the State of
If whatever government is formed stops Katusha rockets from Gaza into Israel and limits suicide bombing they will prove their pragmatism; if they focus on their ideology they will fail, funding will stop and the Palestinian people’s already poor standard of living will get worse.
As Mohammed Ghazel, a Hamas leader in
If Haniyya is Prime Minister it will be
as the PLO was a terrorist organization before
Daoud Kuttab, Professor at
Mahmoud Abbas remains President of the
Palestinian Authority and will be a moderating influence. Abbas has
the past that the Palestinian need ‘one law, one government, one army’.
will now be Hamas’ responsibility. Can they and will they consolidate
various Palestinian security and intelligence services that Abbas could
Unless the new Palestinian government establishes stability in Gaza and
West Bank cities chaos will continue to the detriment of the
and Israelis. Will those holding the patronage jobs, monthly paychecks,
slush funds willingly give them up? Will Mohammad Dahlan, the Fatah
It may take ten-twenty years for peace to come, but it would have if Fatah had won the election. There was no realistic expectation of short term peace. The victory of Hamas confirms that the resolution has a long way to go. (We will discuss this in future columns.)
The election was peaceful, free and fair – the most democratic in Middle Eastern history (the Palestinians have learnt about democracy from the Israelis). This is after all what George Bush has been preaching. A peaceful transfer of power between two opposing parties has never been accomplished in any of the 22 Middle Eastern countries. Bush cannot ignore the people’s will. The Palestinian people will lie in the bed they elected.
The impact on Israeli politics and its Parliamentary election on March 28 seems difficult to determine at this early time. But it is unlikely to help centrist parties such as Kadima and likely to help right wing parties like Likud. All Israeli political comments in the few days after Hamas’ remarkable victory have more to do with the Israeli elections than any understanding of the future. Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of Likud claims to expect ‘Hamastan’ a version of Iran and the Taliban, presumably meaning Sharia (Islamic) law, banning girls and women from education and the workforce and an increase in suicide bombing.
The future, even of the government
coalition to run
Everything has changed and the results are unknown!
In Part A I quoted incorrectly Arik Sharon as having said ‘“We are tired of fighting. We are tired of being courageous. We are tired of winning. We are tired of defeating our enemies. We want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors. And I believe that this is not impossible." It was Ehud Olmert; I apologize for my error and thank Daniel Pipes for correcting me.