Making Hamas Responsible by Giving it Responsibility

Thomas Barnett argues that Hamas winning today’s Palestinian elections might not be such a bad outcome:

If and when Hamas wins, it won’t just be that the population is desperate. It will be because it outperforms Fatah as a provider of social services a desperate population needs desperately. And because its campaign focused, according to Abu Toameh, on corruption, nepotism and anarchy.

And that, my friends, is democracy in hard times and hard places.

The only example that comes to mind of a terrorist group taking the reins of power and more-or-less doing a good job is the African National Congress taking over post-Apartheid South Africa. Still, as Barnett points out, it’s not as if the alternative, Fatah, is a stranger to violence.

There’s something to be said for letting Hamas put up or shut up. To succeed as a political body, they must provide security and effective governance. This requires an end to terroristic violence and reaching a resolution with Israel. If they fail to do those things their appeal will evaporate. Either way, it’s a win.

Update: As of 11 a.m ET, AP has the race “too close to call” but with very high turnout.

Amid tight security and a sea of green and yellow flags, Palestinians turned out in large numbers Wednesday for their first parliamentary election in a decade — a historic vote integrating Islamic militants into politics and determining the future of peacemaking with Israel. Both the ruling Fatah Party and its challenger, the Islamic militant group Hamas, said they were confident of victory, while pollsters said the race was too close to call. Both parties said they would consider a coalition if no clear victor emerges.

[…]

Even it doesn’t win outright, Hamas is widely expected to make a strong showing that would place the Islamists — responsible for dozens of suicide bombings against Israel — squarely inside the Palestinian political system for the first time.

Hamas’ success has alarmed Israel and the West, although Abbas has argued that bringing them into the system will tame them, enabling peace moves to go forward. In an apparent sign of pragmatism, Hamas has not carried out a suicide attacks since a cease-fire was declared a year ago. But its top parliamentary candidate, Ismail Haniyeh, said Hamas had no intention of laying down its arms after the elections as Abbas has said he expects. And another prominent candidate, Mahmoud Zahar, said his group is “not going to change a single word” in its covenant calling for Israel’s destruction.

The Bush administration lists Hamas as a terrorist organization and also refuses to deal directly with it. But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Tuesday refused to rule out negotiations with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas ministers.

That Hamas is “a terrorist organization” would seem to need no qualification.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark says:

    The only example that comes to mind of a terrorist group taking the reins of power and more-or-less doing a good job is the African National Congress taking over post-Apartheid South Africa.

    For some reason, I think you are going to catch a little hell for that statement!

    BTW – I agree with you, so it won’t be from me.