The perils of the Palestinian Authority’s new Fatah-Hamas government
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
For one thing, the Oslo peace accords clearly and intentionally barred terrorist groups like Hamas from participating in elections until they disarmed. Yossi Beilin, the leftist Israeli politician who had been one of the participants in Oslo, said at the time, “There can be no doubt that participation by Hamas in elections held in the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 is a gross violation of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement. . . . That this military organization, appearing as a political party, is allowed to abuse democracy is a prize for terror and violence.” And this was not simply a matter of principle and of fealty to Oslo: Beilin and others on the left feared that if Hamas and other terrorist groups found a place in the PA political system, all hopes of future peace negotiations were gone. As Beilin put it, “Hamas’s entrance into PA institutions is liable to cast a veto on future peace moves, without eliminating the option of violence.”
Moreover, the Palestinian case is not unique: There have been, are, and will be other cases in which an armed terrorist group seeks a political role. Such groups always have an advantage when they wield bullets as well as ballots. Hezbollah is an example: Its political weight in Lebanon is vastly greater than its share of the votes because it can (and does) also threaten and kill opponents. To legitimize Hamas’s role is to strike at the principle that competition in a fair election and in democratic politics must be peaceful. In fact, Hamas appears to be adopting the Hezbollah model, transplanting it from Lebanon to Palestine, as Ehud Yaari of the Washington Institute perfectly described it: “integrating into the general political system while retaining independent, well-equipped armed forces.”
In 2005 and 2006 the Bush administration tried to finesse this issue by arguing that an armed group could participate in elections as a step toward eventual disarmament. There had to be an expectation that they would lay down their weapons at some point. Rice tried to explain this view in 2005, before the PA election, in a Q&A session at Princeton:
The then-secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said something similar prior to the election:
But “ultimately”—the key word in Rice’s statement and Annan’s—can be a very long time. I suppose Hamas would be willing to agree it will disarm “ultimately”—when the Zionist enemy is vanquished, for example.
There is another reason particular to Hamas for excluding it from the elections and the political system until it disarms: the very nature of this terrorist group. It is worth recalling not only the terrorism Hamas practices but just what Hamas stands for, in the words of its charter, adopted in 1988. Genocidal anti-Semitism and the elimination of the State of Israel are themes that permeate the document.
Recent Blog Posts