Fundamentalist Populism Run Amok; Lessons of the Hamas Elections

Article excerpt


The parliamentary election in the Palestinian Authority on Jan. 25, which gave a landslide election victory to the terrorist group Hamas, administered a major reality check to the Bush administration's democracy agenda in the Middle East. Unfortunately, for the people most affected the election result, it produced something far more dangerous: the real potential for civil war between Palestinians, or even war with Israel.

If this outcome does not give pause to the administration's foreign-policy strategists, it is hard to imagine what will.

Especially after the elections in Egypt and Iraq, it has certainly been clear to observers in and out of the government that the potential for a radical Islamic victory was very real. Dissatisfaction with the corruption of the ruling Fatah Party, the dismal legacy of the late Yasser Arafat, has been running high in the PA for years. Furthermore, the alternative to Fatah has never been the peace-loving democrats that we here in Washington hope so fervently for.

No, the real opposition was always Hamas, a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has remained adamantly against any peace process with Israel and which produced the suicide bombers that sunk the peace process time and time again. Hamas is still dedicated to Israel's destruction. As a Hamas leader in Damascus told the Al Araybiya television network, "The Americans and the Europeans are dreaming if they think they can force us to change." In the wake of the election, U.S. and European governments have been forced to do something that should have been done a long time ago, and which must act as a lesson for future elections acknowledge that political legitimacy does not simply derive from a popular vote, but depends also on the nature of political parties themselves.

Historical examples abound of people who should never have been elected to power, Adolf Hitler in Germany, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, to name a few. And yet, the Bush administration pushed for Hamas to be allowed to participate in the election - on the assumption presumably that it would not make much of a showing.

In a meeting in London Monday, the United States led the EU, the Russians and the United Nations in conditioning further aid to the Palestinian Authority on three things: recognition of Israel, commitment to the principles of non-violence and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. …