Friday, January 27, 2006

On Hamas

So as everyone knows by now, Hamas has claimed 79 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian election. A result, I may add, which none of the pollsters and all of the journalists predicted. This indicates an interesting facet of Palestinian/Arab public opinion, which for whatever reason, is difficult to quantify, a priori.

The relevant question, as always, is: Is it good news for the Jews? On this point I am uncertain. I can see three distinct courses history could take, but have no notion of how to quantify them (e.g. 30% likelihood, 40%, 7%). In my thinking, however, I take for granted that Hamas is not a "viable partner for peace" (much like Arafat), and barring radical and sustained changes on behalf of Hamas, Israel will likely be forced to take further unilateral action in the coming years. Only a fool or a madman could attempt to negotiate with a PA representative (e.g. Abbas) who does not represent the present government (Hamas).

First scenario (less likely): A friend of mine asked me last night, if all the polls show that the vast majority of Palestinians want peace, how can they vote for Hamas? I think this answer is obvious. The results indicate that the majority of the Palestinians are concerned with infrastructure and social welfare and do not currently wish to engage in negotiations towards a final status agreement. Throughout America's history we have swayed back and forth between imperialism and xenophobia (to take two extremes) and I see no good reason why the Palestinians should not feel the same. In this scenario the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic remains static for the coming three years. With Hamas engaged in its role as a social welfare provider, it will not have the means to concertedly combat the "Zionists." Moreover, any Hamas provocation would likely provoke an Israeli response which would be contrary to the entire impetus for voting for Hamas in the first place, namely, building civic infrastructure.

Second scenario (more likely): Remember friends, because so many forget, Israel exists. And just like France, it is not going to dissolve any time in the future. So many in the neo-con camp seem to overlook the fact that Hamas does not pose a significant threat to Israel (Iran is something different, however). Therefore, the doomsday scenario in my eyes is that Hamas will use its position of authority to procure weapons and foreign support for its terrorist campaign, and ramp up its capabilities. It seems hard for me to believe that Hamas will be able to kill too many innocents before Israel would intervene and inter Hamas's political officials, but unlike Hamas's prospects in 1997, it does not look like their group will dissolve in the near future.

The final scenario, which is much less likely, is that Hamas, representing the Palestinian extreme, will actually be able to compromise and come to a lasting agreement. While Begin and Sharon were able to forge lasting arrangements due to their particular positions on the right, it does not seem to me that 1. Hamas is nearly mainstream enough 2. They have been involved long enough. Maybe after 30 years of political involvement Hamas could take a position of compromise, it does not seem reasonable that it will happen in just three.

One of the big wild cards here is how closely are rhetoric and policy linked in the Arab Politic? Can Hamas act moderatley while preaching violence? In the past Jihad means Jihad, but, for instance, I don't think Iran is going to attempt to wipe Israel off the map in the near future, despite Ahmadinejad's rhetoric to the contrary.

So is it good news for the Jews? I frankly see it being better than the current state of affairs. As my dad pointed out last night, truth is better than fiction. For the past months the world has been under the fiction that Abbas could restore order to the Palestinian territories. Now Hamas runs the region both in name and in fact and thus would seem easier for Israel to monitor, and identify a unified Palestinian voice (rather than bargaining with one voice, and bombing with another). Additionally, politics has its devilish way of making people complacent, maybe it will work its magic on Hamas as well.


3pillars said...

Perhaps there is another question we should ask ourselves: Is the "peace process" good for the Jews? What have we gained since Oslo? During the 15 year Intifada there were less Israeli casualties than there were from the time Oslo started till the current Intifada started. If that was peace, then what is war? The Palestinians elected a government which opposes peace and all it wants is to destroy Israel - for that is their main goal not humanitarian issues! To say that they supported Hamas in the polls because they wanted to improve their economy, than the same can be said for the Germans who supported Hitler. They are both doing the same thing; they are destroying the Jewish nation! We have to stop being so "openminded" and allowing them to kill us for the sake of "peace."

Zev said...

Seriously, we ought to stop thinking in the binary of peace or no peace and take a more adult approach. This might entail looking to possible collaborative efforts with Palestinians and the PA. Peace is a stupid rhetoric--it is a state of being, not a signed agreement.

Jews in Weinmar did not have an air force. The two scenarios are not nearly analogous.