TCS Daily

The Hamas Win Brings Clarity

By Max Borders - January 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Hamas takes power. Automatic rifles fire into the night. A collective sigh. Some say: "You wanted Democracy? ... You got it."

Nevertheless, this is the situation that we're presented with. Indeed, this is the situation that the Palestinian people have handed to Hamas -- in a place where five years ago no one had ever even held a ballot. Despite being a murderous, troublemaking terror-group, Hamas has been given the mantle of power. So what are they going to do with it?

They have a couple of choices. Either they can behave as statesmen and renounce violent tactics, or they can behave like the Taliban. If they choose the former, there may yet be hope. But if they use the apparatus of the state to try and carry out what they may see as a mandate to push Israel into the sea, then Hamas will be dealt with accordingly.

With clarity comes responsibility

In fact, it will now be easier politically for Israel to do what it must to protect itself. Now that Hamas is "legitimate," Israel can simply defend itself against Palestine instead of a murky Palestinian faction - and such would be justified even under international law. Israel is no longer dealing with a terror group hiding behind an enfeebled Fatah.

They're dealing with a government that has been elected upon an existing right of self-determination - even if it determines itself to be a terror state. And real states (elected by a real majority) may legitimately get their clocks cleaned if they commit acts of war against other states. This may be the clarity the region needed. In the short term, it may mean all out war. In the long term, it may bring some finality to things in a place that has seen only a series of wars and intifadas anyway.

Currently, President Bush is saying the right things about Hamas. He cannot advocate for two states and popular sovereignty at every turn, and then fail to recognize Hamas's government. But things are a lot clearer for the US, too. By bringing Hamas to the table, the President can look at Hamas and hold them directly responsible for whatever they do. Still the question remains: can Israel sit down with a government that has been killing its innocents for the last 20 years?

Apart from the clarity the election has brought, there may be little room for optimism. Even if, with the new sense of responsibility, Hamas has a change of heart, there will likely be other factions that still want only violence. Barbarism and blood vengeance have locked both sides in an apparently inescapable tit-for-tat. And until all Palestinians gain the self-concept that comes from recognition - i.e. understood by the world as a more than a poor, desperate, bitter people -- they will probably remain crouched in the sand with murderous intentions.

Democracy and the rule of law

On a related point, this might be a good opportunity to revise our manner of speaking about the spread of democracy. In short, we must take greater pains to emphasize "the rule of law" and "democracy" simultaneously. Such is not to argue against the Administration's democratization policies. Indeed, that a terror group has been brought into the political process could turn out to be a good thing in the long run. After all, democratization advocates rightly argue that democracy can carve out a political space where before there was none. Democracy is a rudimentary mechanism for accountability, but one nevertheless. And it can fill a vacuum created by war and a lack of recognition in the eyes of the world.

But there must be simultaneous attention to institutions like the rule of law. Whether in rhetoric or in actual nation-building like that going on in Iraq, foreign policy must give equal time to those structures that separate powers, confer individual rights, and establish the bases for prosperity. It is not, as some would argue, a chicken-or-egg scenario. One (democracy) cannot exist successfully without the other (the rule of law) as history has shown -- particularly in Africa, Latin America, and most recently, it seems, in Russia.

Folks like Fareed Zakaria have argued quite forcefully that democracy -- in-and-of-itself -- amounts to little. Populism, for example, is the ugly underside of popular sovereignty. And some might even reasonably put forth that a benign dictator is better than an elected monster in certain circumstances. (Or consider the ongoing debates about the relative merits of Pinochet and Allende.) In the past it was Hitler that came to power by vote. Today it's Hugo Chavez and Hamas.

So as we continue to embark on both soft and hard efforts to democratize the world, let's be sure to emphasize institution-building along with democracy. And as we continue to try and broker peace in the Middle East, let's remember that terrorism has come to power in Palestine. But terrorism can either be the temper-tantrum of a vengeful faction having largely been ignored, or it can be the bygone policy of a group that now has both power and a voice.

Max Borders is Managing Editor of TCS Daily.


Hamas Win
I believe that the win by Hamas may in fact be an opportunity. Hamas will soon discover that firing guns in the air and launching suicide attacks is a lot simpler than meeting the demands of an electorate. But if they take the challenge seriously, they could conceivably evolve into an effective national government. And that would be a major step forward.

tit for tat
Killing the masterminds behind suicide bombings is hardly tit-for-tat.

Isreal has always taken great pains, even put it's own soldiers at risk, to avoid the killing of innocents.

Hamas et-al have always specialized in the killing of innocents.

Trying to equate the two is an act of moral cowardice.

sharia law
The leaders of Hamas have already stated their intention of impossing their extremist version of Sharia law on the nation of Palestine.

I predict that within 5 years many Palestinians will be begging the Isrealis to come back in and take over again.

Should we be surprised?
As the Israeli armed forces have killed many more innocent Palestinian civilians than Palestinians have ever killed Israeli civilians, should we be surprised Hamas has won the election?

As Fatah has pursued the policy of accomodation for the past twenty years, with no result except that the Palestinian people are worse off today than they were then by any measure, should we be surprised Hamas has won the election?

And as Hamas has reined in their shaheed bombers for the past year with a high degree of success, with no recognition of that success on the part of the Israeli government-- and no corresponding gesture toward peace-- should we be surprised they have won the election?

The Palestinian people have no other option. Fatah has proven themselves bankrupt of good ideas, and has failed the people they were supposed to lead. It's time for a group that may more truly represent Palestinian interests to give it a try.

At first I was wondering where you get your facts. But then I realized that it doesn't matter. The only possible place for such inaccurate data could possibly the fevered imaginations of some partisans.

While it is possible that the Israeli's have killed innocent Palestinians, it is unlikely. Of course you probably believe that the leader of a group dedicated to killing Jews is inherently innocent.

As to Hamas reining the bombers, you confuse cause and effect. The bombers have been stopped by increased Israeli security systems. Check points and fences.

Whose set of facts?
Incorrect on all points, Mark. First, you would have found nothing in my post that endorses acts of terrorism on anyone's part-- not Hamas, not independent players and certainly not the IDF.

Second, a search of the web reveals that since the beginning of the Second Intifada the IDF has been consistently killing about three times as many Palestinians as Palestinians have been killing Israelis. You don't know that because you choose not to look at the evidence. I suggest you look.

Third, Hamas has had a truce in effect for the past year. And it has largely been effective. Incidents against Israelis have dropped markedly. Naturally this one group does not have total control over the actions of every Palestinian (in the way that the Israeli government has control over the IDF, for instance), and so there is still the occasional incident. But compliance has demonstrably been very effective. So I would offer that Hamas is pointing the way toward an end to the impasse.

Of course if we look at their history, both sides have behaved de****ably, and both should be considered pariahs in the eyes of the world community. A callous person would offer that they deserve each other. But I would offer that no improvement in the status quo is possible until the hard liners on both sides are on board the process. That would seem obvious.

I'm curious, though. What makes you so great?

Mark the great fool
I think that's what he was trying to make his username but the field was to small.
Mark is one of these people who never bother to back up anything they believe with facts. Maybe it's because he thinks he is the source of all knowledge and anything he says should be taken as the ultimate truth.

The Solipsist
Or perhaps he's just a person with confused ego boundaries. It may be that Mark thinks people like you or I are just figments of his magnificent imagination.

It must cause him to wonder why his incomparable mind has created us. Certainly his world would be more harmonious if everyone were more obsequious and just bowed to his superior intellect.

At any rate, I'm hoping the leadership experience will be a learning opportunity for Hamas. Now that they're in power they won't be able to carry on the way they've been doing. If Netanyahu then wins in Israel the hard heads on both sides can learn how to get along better-- in the face of Mutual Assured Destruction.

No Subject

"As the Israeli armed forces have killed many more innocent Palestinian civilians than Palestinians have ever killed Israeli civilians".

Not only is this false, it beggars the monumentally important fact that Hamas's POLICY is the murder of innocent men, women, and children. Which is why (as of 2002) 187 Israeli female noncombatants have been killed versus only 52 Palestinian female noncombatants.

Israel is defending itself against genocidal murderers who deliberately hide behind civilian Palestinians. One may argue that Israeli forces are careless about the civilians that terrorists hide behind when going after Hamas leaders, but there is no moral equivilance at all between them. None.

"And as Hamas has reined in their shaheed bombers for the past year with a high degree of success"

This is completely false. Hamas has sent it's bombers again and again to murder Israeli's. That they have failed is due to Israeli security measures.

"The Palestinian people have no other option".

They could consider living in peace with Israel instead of supporting genocide and ceaseless war against the Jews and state of Israel. Hamas's charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of every Jew therein. That the Palestinians only choices in the election were between different collections of corrupt murdering thugs is just one of the real tragedies of this land.

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