Why Now?
Thursday, February 02, 2006
I've been listening to the BBC World Service coverage of the Palestinian election. They have people on the scene who have been there for an extended period, speak the local language, have local media contacts, and no ax to grind.

An example of the kind of coverage they provide was their trip to Bethlehem to talk to Palestinian Christians about the impact of living under the rule of the Muslim fundamentalist Hamas. The American media don't seem to understand about the fundamentalism of Hamas, and probably forgot about the native Christian community in the area.

The picture you get from the coverage is that most "pundits" missed the level of dissatisfaction with the corrupt rule of Fatah. Many people, who were expected to vote against Hamas, supported them in the belief that if the corruption weren't brought under control, the Palestinian Authority would lose the international funding it needs to continue.

The current problem was exacerbated by the international community insisting on the transfer of authority from the President of the Authority to the Prime Minister. This was caused by the refusal of Sharon to deal with Arafat. Now there is a moderate President, Mahmoud Abbas, but the Prime Minister will come from Hamas, proving once again that you should be careful what you wish for.

The BBC has interviewed Hamas officials and they make some obvious points: Why should we recognize Israel when Israel refuses to recognize Palestine? More Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli raids, than Israelis have died as a result of Palestinian raids. When will Israel return to the 1967 borders as mandated by the UN Security Council?

Israel says that these things have to be negotiated, but before there are negotiations, Hamas must recognize Israel and denounce violence.

Most governments say they would not give money to a Hamas government because Hamas is designated as a terrorist group.

CNN has an interview with Jimmy Carter that covers some of his views, but he was much more eloquent in his BBC interview when he reminded people that Menachem Begin's career ran from the King David Hotel to the Camp David Accords.

Menachem Begin was the leader of Irgun when they blew up the King David Hotel. Even the founding government of Israel considered many of the actions of Irgun to be terrorism. And, yet, he went to become a founding member of the Likud Party, a Prime Minister of Israel, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for joining Anwar Saddat at Camp David and taking the steps that resulted in peace between Egypt and Israel.

Carter believes that Hamas should be given to the chance to move along the path to becoming a political party, although he doesn't recommend direct payments to them. Carter has a track record on bringing peace to the Middle East and he has credibility with both sides. He can, and does speak to people on both sides.

The reality is that the voters had Fatah and Hamas to choose from, and they rejected Fatah. If you refuse to deal with the winners of the election, you can't really claim to support democracy.


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