Thursday, January 26, 2006

January 26, 2006

Save the date. The end of history was again postponed.

It was a ringing endoresement of Mother Democracy as a form of government. Unfortunately, the People Who Don't Like Us Very Much (to put it mildly) won nothing less than a huge victory. Hamas now runs the Palestinian Authority.

Although this is probably more a Palestinan vote against the corruption & thuggery of the status quo Fatah party than a vote for Hamas' 'drive Israel into the sea' rhetoric, you wouldn't know that by reading or watching, well, any news in the Western Hemisphere. World leaders were shocked, shocked - I tell you! - at this election's result. I guess the Palestinan people didn't buy that "It's just raining" line from Fatah anymore. And Israel flat up said they will not negotiate. Is that some big change in policy I haven't heard about? Last time I checked, negotiations hadn't been going on since 2000.

Is anyone really very surprised? If you are, Why? Gradualism only works when real change is actually being attempted and made. Eventually people get tired of the crap, and vote for change no matter who that change is. The Palestinians didn't think Fatah was doing a very good job by taking all that international aid and using it to vacation in the south of France. I get the feeling the Palestinans have been none to happy with the Israeli government either. While the Palestinians can't vote against the Israeli government, they can vote against Fatah. Hamas takes time out of their busy schedule killing people to build hospitals, schools and roads. Is this even a contest?

Seems like a no brainer to me, but there's still the explanations:

First off, it was the Israelis themselves who helped get Hamas off the ground as a potential alternative to Arafat. Second, they have shown themselves to be its most significant political supporter with their refusal to deal with the far more moderate and westernized Fatah, undercutting its ability to show anything for its public face of moderation and therefore pushing people into the arms of the relatively corruption-free, socially responsible Hamas. Third, while the reasons that the Palestinians support Hamas may have little to do with its professed desire to wipe Israel off the map—again—they genuinely provide real services and do not terrorize the population for their own material gain as does Fatah—the net result will be to give the Israeli hardliners the opportunity to further immiserate the Palestinian masses, putting off the day, even further into the future, when these almost infinitely abused people will ever be able to live their public lives with some dignity and, perhaps prosperity. It’s encouraging to see a genuinely democratic election in the Arab world, yes. But look what you get. This is one of the too-many-to-count fallacies in the insanely counterproductive neocon strategy in the Middle East, which I’m sure will only get worse. In the meantime, the short-term winner of this election is Bibi Netanyahu, which is bad news for all humankind.
-Eric Alterman

The same can be said for Netanyahu and Likud: Hamas helped them secure their places in government, ‘cause let’s face it, if Israel didn’t have a security problem, Israelis would not elect folks like Netanyahu and Likud. If history repeats itself, the Middle East is the historical version of a Puff Daddy song.

Case and point:

"If a government led by Hamas or in which Hamas is a coalition partner is established, the Palestinian Authority will be turned into an authority that supports terror...."

(The Palestinian Authority will be turned into an authority that supports terror?)

"...Israel and the world will ignore it and make it irrelevant," Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Wake up Ariel, wake up!

I really don't know where to begin with this statement. How many millions of riled up Palestinians is that you plan to ‘ignore’, Ol’ boy? And how is that any kind of change from the past that got you to this point in the first place?

But wait, there's more:

The really scary statement can be found later in the same article: "Today it is clear that when Israel flees, Hamas rises. Olmert and Kadima's continued unilateral withdrawals will harm the personal security of each and every one of us," MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said.

Israel didn’t flee from Gaza. They wisely and rightly started to work their way back into accordance with International Law. They gave up land that wasn't theirs in the first place. What’s the alternative, unending Israeli expansion into Mesopotamia? I’m sure that’s a sustainable strategy.

I hope we don’t get too deep into this "the sky is falling" trap. Sometimes saying a thing too many times makes it come true. That would be a shame; this could (and I do mean: could) be the best shot for real peace in the Middle East. But it’ll take guts on both sides to make it happen, and willpower on both sides to keep the craziest of the crazies on a short leash. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Clinton could reform the Welfare State. Can Hamas make peace with Israel? Only time will tell, and only God knows. I 'm just hopin' this falls under the "mysterious ways" category.

Publius Pundit feeds us this bitter pill to swallow.

What can’t be argued is that, if we Americans truly do have faith in democracy being our gift to the world, these elections were a success. But I don’t know why we always expect that the winners will be the people we want to win. If democracy is our mission, we don’t get to choose the leaders of other nations, the people of those nations do, whether we like them or not.

Now we have a monumental task ahead of us: to figure out how to keep democracy working in the Middle East without losing Israel at the same time.


Dante said...

Q: "How many millions of riled up Palestinians is that you plan to ‘ignore’, Ol’ boy?"

A: As many as it takes to get to get the Palestinians to engage Israel in actual military combat. Israel is not stupid. And I doubt the folks in charge are keeping this up just to stay elected. Israel is particularly good at military combat. The 1973 War was the first time they ever suffered serious military casualties in the Middle East. They haven't suffered many since. I imagine they want to provoke a fight on their terms. It's hard finding terroist cells among the unwashed Palestinian masses, but if you can get the entire Palestinian population ready to take arms against you, it makes it a lot easier to know who to shoot and when. And the Israelis really aren't going to miss the Palestinians they provoke into fighting all that much when (if) they are gone.

Now I'm not saying it's right to do such a thing, but it looks to me like that is Israel's plan. Oppress the Palestinians to the point that they have little choice but to band together to take on Israel and then try to take them all out. It looks like that's been Israel's plan for a long time even when folks like Sharon are in charge. Sure Israel has to pay lip service to peace to keep the US on their side. They might even have to conceed a few things along the way to keep up appearences. After all, they wouldn't want to lose that victim status they have. But I have my doubts that they are truly committed to peace any more than the Palestinians are.

patsbrother said...

Isreal does not have a plan. In the past, Isreal's "plan" has been ignore reality and the existence of those around you, change the facts on the ground, and...

But they never got to "and". It has been ad hoc and piecemeal since day one. When Isreal took Gaza, the West Bank, Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and Sinai in its preemptive war of 1967, the levelheaded looked around and said: congratulations, but we can't keep these lands because we can not absorb these people or sustain such divisions. Then, after ignoring reason, the settlements began. The first semblence of an actual, enacted plan dawned thirty-five years later and is currently married to the personality of a frail and unconscious man.

I am dubious of any "plan" incubating within this action-reaction dichotomy.

Patrick Armstrong said...

I will later discuss the stange idea of "actual military combat" between an Israeli military with tanks, planes, helicopters, & shock troops vs a Palestinian Authority with sticks, rocks, & homemade rockets.

But now, I think it is important to point out that these election results were probably as surprising to Hamas as they were to everyone else. Hamas can no longer wait in the wings and criticize the PA for shortcomings, now they are squarely behind the 8 ball - for better or for worse.

The act of actually governing changes people and organizaitons - again, for better or for worse.

For instance, Hamas' first task is to actually make sure Palestine itself doesn't degenerate into civil war. Forget Israel for a moment, the Palestinans' greatest enemy has always been the Palestinians. All the international criticism in the world won't matter if your own people are shooting at you in the streets. I'm sure that kind of thing jumps to the top of the priority list with some bit of speed.

Second, they're going to have to deal with Palestinians who disagree with them on issues of Islam and morality. Before, they could work from their 'blue collar' Mosques and Gaza enclaves they could surround themselves with supporters. If they didn't want to deal with anyone else, they really didn't have to. Now that they're moving into Ramallah, they'll have to deal with the bar, blue jeans & nightlife crowd keeping them up late.