Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

Let Hamas Fail on Its Own

I read a newswire piece on Reuters this morning detailing Israeli government efforts to isolate Hamas diplomatically and economically in the hopes of forcing its collapse. I am absolutely stunned at the lack of foresight the Israelis are showing by pursuing this strategy. Nearly every Middle Eastern government relishes the opportunity to blame the United States and Israel for the present state of affairs in their own countries. They love to distract their populations from their own ineptitude as leaders and brain wash their people into believing that the reason their quality of life is less than ideal is because of something the Americans and the Israelis are doing. It is a sound propaganda strategy that has successfully served the more corrupt governments in the Middle East.
If Israel pursues this strategy (at least publicly pursues it) they will actually be providing Hamas with a shield, protecting it from any consequences of any potential failures they experience as a governing body. If Hamas fails to achieve a workable relationship with the Israelis and improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people, they will have a ready-made excuse for their failures. They will be able to point the finger squarely at the Israelis and say to the Palestinian people, “we could have made a better life for you, but the Israelis made it impossible. They used their contacts and lobbyists to choke off the funds and diplomatic relations making it impossible to govern”. And unlike most other times when blaming the Israelis is completely ridiculous they would actually have a good point this time.
I don’t like Hamas. It is a terrorist group and it is dedicated to the destruction of one of the United States’ most stalwart allies. But they were elected in some of the most well run, free and fair elections the region has ever seen. They won on a platform not of Israeli destruction but of anti-corruption, anti-Fatah, and social welfare extension. I have serious reservations about their ability to deliver to the Palestinian people now that they are in control of the Palestinian Legislative Council. But the United States and Israel has to allow for Hamas to fail on its own. Any efforts to facilitate that failure will only reinforce the perception that the US and Israel don’t rally have any interest in Middle Eastern democracy. Efforts made to hasten the failure of Hamas will only make them stronger.
Yasser Arafat was a fraud, but he made a living out of distracting the Palestinian people and blaming Israel for his failure to improve their quality of life, even though it was his corruption and ineffective leadership style that mostly impacted the state of affairs in Palestine. But he died a revered figure!!!! Lets not give Hamas a safety shield. Let Hamas fail on its own.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

Expect More of This

You know there is a deficit of good governance and sound leadership in the Middle East when the world reports with despair that the Fatah Movement was defeated in open, free and fair elections in the Palestinian territories. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pleased with the election of Hamas to a position of real authority within the Palestinian government, but Hamas is who the Palestinian people chose to represent them, so at the very minimum, the United States and the rest of the western world has to take a step back and appreciate that point before any course of action is pursued.

If the European Union and the United States overplay their respective hands in this situation they put the development of democratic governance at risk in the Middle East. The elections were free, fair and conducted with little reported irregularities (something that can’t be said for the much heralded elections in Iraq and Afghanistan). If the Western world turns its back and scorns the popularly elected representative government of Palestine simply because it does not like the ideologies that government represents, what does that say about the level of respect the Western world has for the Palestinian electorate?

Ironically, if the West successfully isolates the new Palestinian government, it will play right into the hands of the despotic leaders of the regimes in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Through their remarkably effective propaganda machines these governments will continue to poison their population’s minds with notions the West (especially the United States) only supports democracy in the Middle East if pro-Western, pro-Israeli, secular governments are elected. This thought process does not do the United States and its policy of spreading democracy throughout the parts of the world with a good government deficit any favors.

Do I like Hamas, of course not? They are responsible for supplying a majority of the firepower and suicide bombers during this latest intifada against Israel. But the elections that brought Hamas to power were arguably not about battling the Israelis; they were about removing a political establishment that for decades has squandered every opportunity to improve the lives of the Palestinian people. In addition to the suicide bombers and the dangerous rhetoric, Hamas also supplies schools, hospitals, and other social programs aimed at improving the quality of life for the Palestinian people. Fatah for decades has led the Palestinians nowhere due to their inability to govern and their culture of corruption.

Does Hamas need to dramatically change its policies towards terrorism and Israel, of course they do? But now is the time for both tact and pressure. Palestine just conducted free and fair elections that clearly demonstrate just how much of a sham the elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia really were. However, Hamas has to understand, that now is the time to perform, now is the time to show the world and the Palestinian people that their party has the vision, the will, and the technical ability to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people. They also have to accept the fact that they are now in the “big leagues” and when you are operating at this level, you are going to have to perform and play within the acceptable rules and norms of statecraft is you are going to earn the respect of the world.

Finally, lets be clear, after several generations of despotic rule, the only parties and opposition groups with any real credibility and clout in the Middle East are the Islamic parties. There is going to be more elections like this in the near term and the Western world is just going to have to get use to it. But as long as those elections aren’t a one man, one vote, one time situation, I think it’s a development the free world can and needs to live with. ama

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