Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas in Power: The Taming of the Shrew?

Who wooed in haste, and means to wed at leisure.
The Taming of the Shrew Quote Act iii. Scene 2

In today's The Best of the Web, James Taranto has a great post, "Democratically Elected Terrorists" covering Hamas and their election victory.

One point he makes up front is the history of Hamas' terrorist attacks and murder of Israelis. He gives a link to an Arutz Sheva article, History of Hamas Murderous Attacks:

Hamas has set the destruction of Israel as its goal. Between September 2000 and April 2004, Hamas perpetrated 425 terrorist attacks against Israel and murd1ered 377 Israelis - nine every month.

...Hamas is responsible for 24 murders before the Oslo Accords, 156 more before the Oslo War began in September 2000, and at least another 377 since then - a total of at least 557.

The article highlights a number of attacks and links to IMRA, which provides A Chronology of Terrorist Attacks Carried out by Hamas Since September 2000

The key question addressed by the articles Taranto links to is what direction Hamas will take: will it continue as a terrorist organization or be tamed by the political system?

Emanuele Ottolenghi, who teaches Israel studies at Oxford University, writes an article for The National Review that advocates the view that in victory, Hamas has gotten more than it bargained for:

Hamas’s favored outcome was not victory, but a strong showing that would leave Hamas with the best of both worlds: It would remain in opposition (or would be invited to join a coalition as a junior partner) but would impose severe limitations on the Fatah-led government on how to manage its relations with Israel. Hamas could thus claim to reject Oslo, decline to recognize the Palestinian Authority and its commitments under the Oslo accords and the roadmap, and continue to use its rising political clout and its military strength to sabotage any effort to revive the moribund peace process.

What victory does to Hamas is to put the movement into an impossible position. As preliminary reports emerge, Hamas has already asked Fatah to form a coalition and got a negative response. Prime Minister Abu Ala has resigned with his cabinet, and president Abu Mazen will now appoint Hamas to form the next government. From the shadows of ambiguity, where Hamas could afford — thanks to the moral and intellectual hypocrisy of those in the Western world who dismissed its incendiary rhetoric as tactics — to have the cake and eat it too. Now, no more. Had they won 30-35 percent of the seats, they could have stayed out of power but put enormous limits on the Palestinian Authority’s room to maneuver. By winning, they have to govern, which means they have to tell the world, very soon, a number of things.

They will have to show their true face now: No more masks, no more veils, no more double-speak. If the cooptation theory — favored by the International Crisis Group and by the former British MI-6 turned talking head, Alistair Crooke — were true, this is the time for Hamas to show what hides behind its veil.

As the government of the Palestinian Authority, now they will have to say whether they accept the roadmap.

They will have to take control over security and decide whether they use it to uphold the roadmap or to wage war.

There will be no excuses or ambiguities when Hamas fires rockets on Israel and launches suicide attacks against civilian targets. Until Tuesday, the PA could hide behind the excuse that they were not directly responsible and they could not rein in the "militants." Now the "militants" are the militia of the ruling party. They are one and the same with the Palestinian Authority. If they bomb Israel from Gaza — not under occupation anymore, and is therefore, technically, part of the Palestinian state the PLO proclaimed in Algiers in 1988, but never bothered to take responsibility for — that is an act of war, which can be responded to in kind, under the full cover of the internationally recognized right of self-defense. No more excuses that the Palestinians live under occupation, that the PA is too weak to disarm Hamas, that violence is not the policy of the PA. Hamas and the PA will be the same: What Hamas does is what the PA will stand for.

If this analysis is to be believed, in its haste to enter the government, Hamas thought it would have the time to further manipulate the political situation towards its own prefered ends but now will be reigned in by political responsibility.

But as much as one would like to think that the spotlight will be on Hamas, for Ottolenghi's analysis to become a reality the real spotlight will have to be on the US and Europe.

Just where is this pressure on Hamas to act responsibly supposed to come from?

The world has been content to refer to murderous terrorists as "freedom fighters" and to put pressure on Israel to make concessions without requiring reciprocity on the Palestinian Arabs to respond in kind. It has failed to insist on enforcing the Palestinian requirements of the Roadmap--and even the media has glossed over the fact that disarming and ending terror were primary requirements of the PA, independent of any measures taken by Israel.

Instead, the only Palestinian issue that really seems to have upset the PA's financial backers in the West is the waste of money--not that fact that it was used for terror, but that it was used to line the pockets of corrupt officials.

Fighting corruption was the main issue of yesterday's election. What is going to keep Hamas from thinking that ending corruption and providing accountability is all it will take to satisfy the West? It will have to be more than talk--public statements making demands are likely to have as much effect on Hamas as they have had thus far on Iran.

Since the US has taken a hands-off approach towards creating democracy in the PA as opposed to its involvement in Iraq, Hamas can easily point to unwelcome steps by the US as interference in their internal affairs, while with-holding of aid and money can be labeled the same way.

Meanwhile, what is to keep Hamas from continuing the excuses that served Abbas so well. Further suicide attacks or the firing of artillery into Israel from Gaza can just be blamed on splinter groups and demands for crackdowns can be responded to with claims that action will cause civil war.

Why should the West now be taken seriously by Hamas? But if the West does not now step up to the plate, any talk about Hamas and its inevitable moderation (whatever that means in the Middle East) will be nothing more than wishful thinking and punditry.

He that knows better how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak; ‘tis charity to shew.”
Act 4, Sc. 2, Lines 188-211

Crossposted at Israpundit

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