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The End of Palestinian Democracy?

How can the U.S., in good faith, sponsor a state that would not be a functioning democracy?

4:30 PM, Jul 15, 2010 • By ASAF ROMIROWSKY and JONATHAN SCHANZER
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Hamas won the election, claiming 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats.  Fatah was humiliated. But with support from the West, Fatah refused to hand over power, and further refused to join a coalition with Hamas. 

A bitter deadlock kept the Palestinians paralyzed until the civil war of June 2007.  Hamas conquered Gaza in a battle that killed 161 Palestinians and wounded some 700.  The political fallout was also considerable: Hamas controlled Gaza, while the West Bank remained in Fatah hands.

Repeated attempts by the Saudis, Egyptians, Yemenis, Turks, Mauritanians and others have failed to foster reconciliation since the 2007 war, while the two sides (from their two different territories) continue to trade barbs

Given this context, the decision to hold municipal elections this month was questionable from the start.  Indeed, little could have been accomplished under these circumstances. 

But this was not the reason the West Bank leaders cancelled the vote. The real reason was that Fatah could not agree on the candidates they would stand up for election. More importantly, as journalist Khaled Abu Toameh notes, Fatah feared another electoral humiliation. 

How can the U.S., in good faith, sponsor a state that would not be a functioning democracy?  If the Obama administration wants to continue to hold out hope for Palestinian statehood, it must find a way to revive the flat-lining Palestinian political system.  The odds of success grow increasingly dim.

Jonathan Schanzer is vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).  Asaf Romirowsky is a visiting fellow at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).  

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