Friday, January 27, 2006

The Hamas Victory Is Not That Much Of A Surprise

Written from Mumbai, India--

The column in the Indian Express here today is headlined, "Today's question: A New Hamas?" And the writer, P.R. Kumaraswamy, declares, "A prudent policy would be to look for signals that Hamas is prepared to shoulder national responsibility...In other words, will the electoral victory transform Hamas into a responsible player?"

There should have been no great surprise in the Hamas victory. Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, has been washed up for a long time. Corrupt, indecisive, without imagination, it has had nothing to offer the Palestinian people for a long time.

So, in my view, it would be a mistake to jump to bad conclusions as to what the ultimate election consequences may be.

Eugene McCarthy used to say, "Nothing so powerfully concentrates the mind as an election or a hanging." By that, he meant that an election, when fairly conducted, unlike last June's contest in Iran, lights up the atmosphere like a bolt of lightning. It clarifies everything.

There is no easy, or quick, solution to the problems in the Middle East. But it could be that with responsibility will come a more realistic set of policies for the Hamas organization. Already, that organization in the last year did, rather abortively, enter into the fitful truce.

The U.S., and the Bush Administration, should not take a categorical position at this stage on the election result. We have to be prepared to talk with everyone, and allow everyone time to adjust. This is also a time of transition for Israel, with the end of the Sharon period and new elections in the offing.

Ultimately, even Hamas's leadership may judge, we can only hope, that the policy of suicide bombings has been totally counterproductive. We can only hope that is the case.

But in the meantime, let's wait. Fatah is defeated and good riddance! Now, as Lincoln once said, we must be prepared to think and act anew.

(A few days later, both the Bush Administration and European governments are putting pressure on Hamas. This is not bad, but it's important to have a dialogue too. I'm not against either inviting the Hamas leadership to Washington or sending emissaries to the Middle East to talk with it. The new German chancellor has been playing a tough and respected role too. The more power to her!)

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