Thursday, January 26, 2006

Peace and War make mismatched sandals

It's official now. Hamas has won a strong majority in the Palenstinian Parliament.

Everyone connected with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or Middle East politics in general, is doing a double-take.

Warnings of gloom, doom, and suicide bombings are all over the media. The Christian Science Monitor questions whether the U.S. should recognize a democratically elected government with a majority party that is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.

At first glance, the outlook for the peace process is grim. The moderate Fatah party has lost control of the Palestinian government. President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah party, stays in office regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary elections, though he earlier pledged to resign if he could not lead a government dedicated to the peace process.

The State Department has considered Abbas the key Palestinian figure in the peace process. Secretary Rice's statement earlier today blandly congratulated the Palestinian people on a peaceful election process but was critical of Hamas, saying that "you cannot have one foot in politics and the other in terror."

So. Gloom, doom, and a new Hammas which now has foot planted in terrorism and one in government. Definitely not a good day for world peace. Maybe not a good day for democracy. On the other hand, it was a good day for Haliburton, whose stock rose on the expectation that Middle East oil prices are going to stay high for a loooong time.

But does Hamas' victory have to be a disaster? I don't think so. The change in the IRA's role in Ireland since the 1997 Belfast Agreement shows that a militant resistance group can become a positive, legitimate political organization. Granted, the situation in Israel is a lot worse than 1990s Ireland, but I still think the success of the Irish process can be a useful model for Hamas today.

The great weakness of the Israeli-Palenstinin peace process has always been that extremists on either side can derail it with much less effort than it takes for moderates to get it moving again. Well, the Palestinian extremists no longer have a reason to undermine their own government; at least, not a reason that is likely to carry much weight with the voters.

This election will cause great changes in the Palestinian government and the peace process. But those changes don't have to mean war, or more bombings. Hamas has a historic opportunity to transform itself, and Palestinian politics. Give them the chance to do this in a postive way before condeming them and cutting off relations with Palestine.


Blogger neophyte said...

hmmm. The trouble with mismatched sandals is that it draws attention to dirty feet.

My soon to be ex is Palestinian. I would love to hold out some kind of hope that Hamas could be peaceful. As far as I can see, it would take a miracle.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Blogchik said...

Wurm, I really wish I could agree with you on this one. But I really don't think militant Islam and the IRA are reading from the same songbook.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Wurm42 said...

I have to note that The Daily Show coverage of this issue just *rocked* Thursday night. (Just saw the Tivo'd episode now)

Among other things, John Stewart pointed out that Hamas has never accepted donations from Jack Abramoff.

1:20 AM  

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