Stubborn Realities

Category: World Affairs Topics: Elections, Hamas, Palestine Views: 2242
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While there was euphoria in some quarters and the gnashing of teeth in others, the more appropriate response to the recent Palestinian elections requires thoughtful assessment.

No election ushers in the "Golden Age" or marks the "End of Days." More often, elections are a reflection of reality. And the realities that shaped the environment in this particular election, have been brewing for quite some time.

The banal lamentations of some that this election spells the end of the peace process, ignores the reality that there is no peace process and there has not been one for more than a decade. The parties may have gone through the motions, but compare this "process" with the determined leadership and balanced pressure demonstrated by the US in the Irish "peace process" and the difference is clear. Unfortunately this reality has been understood only by Palestinians. Since the 1990s they've seen their hope in Oslo betrayed and crushed as settlements, settler-only roads, and checkpoints and now the invasive and insidious wall became concrete reminders that there was no peace. This, coupled with the long-term corrosive impact of unemployment, humiliation and the violence of the occupation, created another reality-the distortion of Palestinian daily life and culture.

To this, must be added the performance of the Palestinian Authority and its ruling party. On the one hand, they were unfortunate actors in a tragic comedy masquerading as a peace process. From the beginning they were set up for failure. They were given only limited control of their land, no control over resources, and no opportunity to grow their economy. They could not have succeeded. At the same time, excuses aside, some in the PA behaved badly, and in too many instances, abused their positions, insensitive to growing public resentment.

This election reflected these realities. While our polling of two weeks ago, like everyone else's polling, missed the outcome, we did capture the public mood. We found great frustration with the PA, no confidence that peace was possible and deep concern with internal issues: unemployment, civil strife, corruption and the need for national unity. These were the issues on which the electorate voted. 

The election is over, but the realities remain unchanged. The new government will have no more ability than did its predecessor to improve the economy. The Israelis, who, I believe, always intended to unilaterally impose their will by shaping what they are calling an "interim solution," now feel they are justified in doing so. And the US and European Union, who have failed to use balanced pressure to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace will once again play the "if only" game with the weakest and most vulnerable party in the process, while ignoring Israeli behavior.

Hamas, whose stubborn reliance on suicide bombings played a role in undercutting the PA and giving Israel the excuse they sought to abort peacemaking, has inherited the reigns of authority and must make do with the limited tools available to them. Despite this, if they act judiciously, they can avoid worsening an already troublesome reality. 

The new Authority will almost immediately be confronted with a number of dramatic challenges, not the least of which involves personnel issues. An indication of the degree to which Hamas will be a wise steward of the "spoils" of their victory will become clear with the early personnel decisions they make.

It is important that Abu Mazin remain President and Hamas ought not to force his hand. In addition, Hamas must decide who will form their cabinet. This is an area where the party can demonstrate its commitment to providing real leadership and national unity by reaching out to independents and men and women of experience, inviting them to serve. Another area where Hamas can show wisdom is in how it deals with Palestinian civil servants and security forces (both bloated, in part due to patronage, but also as a way of absorbing the unemployed). While some changes are expected, if the Hamas leadership pursues a massive "de-Fatehfication" of these two groups, social strife will intensify, compromising efforts at creating national unity.

Finally, Hamas should recognize that it did not win a mandate to impose a religious agenda, but to end corruption, achieve national unity and create jobs. Given the deep divisions that exist in Palestinian society, if Hamas pushes too hard to legislate or impose their theology, they will aggravate social strife, making divisions deeper.

A final word to the international community. They too must show wisdom. Already there are members of the US Congress and some in the EU considering suspending aid to the Palestinians or boycotting the new government. The results of this election were born out of despair and deep alienation. If the West behaves foolishly, they will only help to fuel this public mood which will in turn feed extremism. A wiser policy would be to find creative and transparent ways to radically transform the condition of Palestinian life. The international community should not only urge the PA President to stay, but should also find ways to provide him the support he was denied in the year since his election. By putting pressure on the Israelis to stop their unilateral behavior and work with President Abbas, and some members of the PA's new cabinet and the Palestinian private sector, it is still possible to change the realities on the ground. It is this change that will strengthen moderation and possibly change Hamas' behavior. This election is over, but it is now important to focus on the next one. And for its outcome to be different, realities on the ground must change.

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute and can be reached at [email protected]


  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Elections, Hamas, Palestine
Views: 2242

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Older Comments:
YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
As more of the world's downtrodden start at least initially choosing tyrants for themselves, people of the more affluent countries are less likely to think they are doing the downtrodden a favor - through foreign aid or whatever you care to call it and so on. All things considered as an American it seems like a refreshing change of pace. You see, not only do I feel less responsible for the downtrodden being oppressed, I feel less likely to unilaterally assume I'm their friend. Which is the sort of thing that as Americans have seen can lead to a rather rude awakening.
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HUDD FROM CANADA said:
NorthernCross congratulations! Good for you! One can see that you thoroughly read the article and gave us your peofessional political analysis in the manner only a great mind could. It is an honour to have you on this website. I am not trying to add anything to your dissertation, it is perfect, only I'll try to cast more light on the obvious facts that otherwise speak for themselves.

Let's bring the two into the open. Post WWI Germany and Occupied Palestine. Let's see what was Germany at the time:

GERMANY was a sovereign well established government with an exemplary infra and superstructure. Germany was a top world industrialized country with a workforce of 40 million people in a population slightly exceding 60 million. Germany capitulated from a world war that she created and was able to wage for four bloody years while she invaded and inslaved almost all of Europe.

PALESTINE an illegally occupied territory under the most brutal and inhumane oppression mankind ever experienced. Palestine is not a country, is a no man's land allowed by her Fascist Zionist occupiers to be ruled semi-autonomically by her people, the Palestinians. Palestine does not have an industry and no infra or supra structure to her economy. Unlike Germany, Palestine can not survive on its own. It needs like Israel the International community's support.

ISRAEL a sovereig ultra militarized apartheit state, discriminating among her own subjects/citizens. Jewish is the master race, while anybody else is Goy or non-Jewish and subjected to scrutinity and discrimination. Israel is the single nuclear power in the region and is the single state in ME that holds under cruel occupation invaded lands that belong to other countries like Syria, Lebanon and the whole land of Palestine.

Between Nazi Germany vs Hamas or Nazi Germany vs Zionist Israel, where is there an obvious resemblence? Political Analyst and Historian Northerncross tells us that the former comparison applies! Bully for
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ICE FOSSIL FROM USA said:
The author has presented nice idealistic views. However the reality is simple, Palestinians are at the brink of 19th century ideological war to rid the world of muslims like in many other places i.e. Chechneya, Kashmir, East Turkestan, Dijabouti etc.

Muslims in the 20th century can never attain peace unless they can defeat all modern idealogies based on darwisnism, communism, facicsm and secularism. The theme of all strife is simple i.e. Survival of the fittest, those who cannt defend themselves have no right to live. This ideology is at the center of all movements against muslims today. Those who are living in countries untainted by this will not escape it forever.

There will be no peace in any muslim troubled area unless muslims unite globally and resort to opposition. The pretext has to be unity otherwise it will always be labeled terrorism and not even supported within the frameworks of muslim communities.

Hamas should recogize Israel and work on establishing Palestine until they are strong enough to stand on there own. When two states clash the perspectives of soverignty are quite different. They cannot achieve what is lost by waging a senseless fight. They need to establish a Palestinian state no matter what it is to unite the Palestinians.
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NORTHERNCROSS FROM USA said:
Giving more aid to the PA with Hamas in power is like giving money to Hitler's Germany. Sure, you could say that Hitler was elected as a "reflection" of the times, and that the results of that election putting him in power "were born out of despair and deep alienation" of the German people following the First World War. Nonetheless, it would have been the height of idiocy for the Western powers of the time to go ahead and give Hitler the money he needed to build the tanks he eventually used to overrun Europe.

By the same token, we shouldn't volunteer to sharpen the knives of radical Islamists that they're itching to use on our throats. No aid to Hamas, period.
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