It is reported that the democratic process was on display in the Palestinian elections. What was actually took place, however, offers pause about the future. Though the region was holding its breath hoping that Abu Mazen could maintain control over the Palestinian Authority, it soon became obvious that Hamas, after a surprising victory (76 of the 132 seats), would now actively control the government.
Hamas’s involvement in the political process is a Trojan horse. It is participating in this “democracy” only to destroy it. Its charter calls for the elimination of Israel through the use of force if necessary, and that position has been reinforced with its recent political success.
In fact, Hamas leaders contend that the only reason for the Israeli disengagement from Gaza was an escalation of violence. Their transparent goal has always been to establish a viable competing entity against Mazen’s Fatah and Fatah’s own violent offshoot, the Al Aksa Brigades.
With its newfound political influence, Hamas will convert itself into the military arm of the prospective Palestinian state. It has used Arab oil money, on the order of $150 million annually, to develop loyal bureaucrats in local governments – more than 2,000 bureaucrats in Nablus alone.
Despite the presence of former president Jimmy Carter as an election observer who routinely condemns violence, Hamas refused to renounce its violent guiding principles and goals. Even the widely anticipated post-election calm will be little more than a ploy to extort favors from foreign governments.
Arguably the most popular figure on the West Bank is Marwan Barghouti, who sits in an Israeli prison for his terrorist activities. It became clear in recent months that Abu Mazen had neither the will nor the power to restrain the radicals in his midst. Violence will now evolve from covert to overt with Hamas in the leadership.
All the talk about a peaceful settlement resides solely in Israel. In fact, as almost every Israeli realizes, there will be new attacks at some point if only so that Hamas can demonstrate its power and influence.
Between September 2000 and October 2005, 522 Palestinians in Nablus – among them 80 children and 28 women – who were deemed either sympathetic to Israel or spying for it were killed by Hamas.
While optimism is in the West Bank air and hope exists that Hamas, now that it has attained political power, will moderate its stance, realism has already intruded. A suicide bomber injured 80 people in Tel Aviv. Hamas thugs have sequestered private property whenever and wherever they like. Gangs are flourishing and there are reports that Al Qaeda has offered Hamas leaders money and logistical support.
The Bush administration has promised Israel that it will not recognize any Palestinian government in which Hamas participates. But this is easier said than done now that Hamas has achieved an electoral victory. After all, the State Department had called for elections that include all factions. Surely Hamas has demonstrated it is a faction with political clout.
At the moment Mazen and even Barghouti are calling for a Palestinian state along the lines of the 1967 borders (the Green Line) with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as long as violence isn’t renounced and controlled, negotiating gestures are mere words punctured as easily as soap bubbles.
If one goes by the Hamas charter and the history of this terror organization, there is only one goal it has in mind: control of all the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. As Barghouti noted recently in an interview on Al Jazeera, “Partners in blood are partners in decisions.”
Hence a peace process is largely a fiction. Israel has two realistic options: one, expand the security fence and impose an arrangement on the Palestinians that offers Israelis some security behind defensible borders, or two, remain patient until there is a real desire for negotiation on the part of the Palestinians.