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January 28, 2006

Hamas Rules, Indeed

Here is a very well laid out analysis of the significance of the Hamas victory over Fatah in Wednesday's elections, and where this result of terrorist organization over long established, corrupt governance might lead.

The sweeping victory of the Islamist Hamas party in Wednesday's Palestinian legislative elections can hardly be considered good news. But neither is it surprising, and it may even have the long-run benefit of educating Palestinians about the terrible cost of their political choices.

Absolutely, but that long-run benefit will come the hard way. The Hamas charter's still all about murdering as many Jews(not considering the collateral deaths of fellow Palestinians to be of consequence)as it takes to make instant history of Israel. Having been voted into power makes them no less terrorists than they were prior to the elections.

The ruling Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas governed corruptly, ineffectually and, until the death in 2004 of founder Yasser Arafat, dictatorially. So it is understandable that Palestinians wanted an alternative. That they went for the only other major choice on offer is not necessarily an indication that they share Hamas's goal of destroying Israel and all its citizens. The vote might even turn out to be clarifying--in the sense of showing the world that no Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible until the Palestinians have leaders who really want to live in peace with Israel.

Right, sometime soon. No doubt.

Rabin was right that Arafat would have scant regard for the rights of Palestinians. But he was wrong that Arafat would crack down on Hamas. Like every other strongman, Arafat didn't crack down on extremists but used them to his advantage where he could. Palestinians could see that the U.S. was coddling a man who oppressed them, breeding cynicism about U.S. motives and making it hard for democratic movements to flourish. The Bush Administration is working hard to change those perceptions and build a Palestinian civil society, but this will take years.

Just one of many cases of the Bush Administration's having to sidetrack assets from ongoing proactive projects to clean up a mess generated by the Clinton Administration years before, but I'll digress no further.

The White House will have to resist the temptation, no doubt encouraged by Europe, to pressure Israel to deal with Hamas as it once was pressed to deal with Arafat. But given Hamas's history and declared goals, the onus is on its leaders to show that they have an agenda beyond terror. If Hamas begins to use Gaza as a base to import weapons and attack Israel, the Jewish state will have every right to strike back in self-defense. And the U.S. should support it in doing so.

Future terrorism by Hamas, which is a certainty, will bring misery to the Palestinians via Israel's completely justified retaliatory and self defense measures, and the Palestinian leadership will blame Israel for any collateral damage, somehow managing to make the part about the original terrorist attack go away and accusing Israel of violating territorial agreements it had made with the Palestinians.

True story: When I lived in San Francisco, I found that there are a lot of small, family run retail stores owned by Palestinians, and got to know the owners of a few in my neighborhood.

"Arafat no good." Was a consensus among these people. "He steal. He make violence. Arafat gone, violence stop, I go home."

About two and a half years ago, there was a Palestinian terrorist attack of particular severity that drew a smash for smite response from the Israelis more than twelve hours later.

Two of the Palestinian merchants told me that according to Al Jazeera and a couple of other Arabic news agencies, the Arab terrorist attack had been retaliation for the Israelis' action. According to the time-line involved, this would have meant that the terrorists had been retaliating in advance.

That being the nature of Hamas and the rest of the terrorist groups purporting to speak for the Palestinians, in my own unhumble opinion I see nothing changing for the better for a long time to come, unless my own long-standing prediction comes true:

Israel exercises an extreme military option in which a lot of Palestinians die, good(collaterally, or simply too moderate for Hamas' use and therefore executed) and evil alike, the terrorists are hammered into oblivion, destroyed root and branch, and any support among the Palestinians for any kind of militancy suffers a broken back.

Posted by Seth at January 28, 2006 09:20 AM