I've been hearing a lot of debate over what this really means. Some are saying that the election of Hamas is in response to the corruption of Arafat's Fatah party. Not that I ever heard these critics complaining of Fatah's corruption before, but one must wonder if it's a good trade: corrupt terrorists for more extreme terrorists.
Some are interpretting this as the Palestinian people embracing the cry for the destruction of Israel. Of course, others are saying that it wasn't really a "democratic" election. The choice was Fatah or Hamas . . . how long do you think a politician running on a platform of peace with Israel would have survived in that chaotic place?
I suppose we should hold off on reaching conclusions about the Palestinian people from this. Benefit of the doubt, and all. After all, some people are saying that this outcome is really good.
Okay, now that you're done with the spit-take, here's the reason: With Hamas now at the head of the government, they can't play the game they have been; it's time for their true colors to shine.
What victory does to Hamas is to put the movement into an impossible position. As preliminary reports emerge, Hamas has already asked Fatah to form a coalition and got a negative response. Prime Minister Abu Ala has resigned with his cabinet, and president Abu Mazen will now appoint Hamas to form the next government. From the shadows of ambiguity, where Hamas could afford — thanks to the moral and intellectual hypocrisy of those in the Western world who dismissed its incendiary rhetoric as tactics — to have the cake and eat it too. Now, no more. Had they won 30-35 percent of the seats, they could have stayed out of power but put enormous limits on the Palestinian Authority’s room to maneuver. By winning, they have to govern, which means they have to tell the world, very soon, a number of things.
. . .
There will be no excuses or ambiguities when Hamas fires rockets on Israel and launches suicide attacks against civilian targets. Until Tuesday, the PA could hide behind the excuse that they were not directly responsible and they could not rein in the "militants." Now the "militants" are the militia of the ruling party. They are one and the same with the Palestinian Authority. If they bomb Israel from Gaza — not under occupation anymore, and is therefore, technically, part of the Palestinian state the PLO proclaimed in Algiers in 1988, but never bothered to take responsibility for — that is an act of war, which can be responded to in kind, under the full cover of the internationally recognized right of self-defense. No more excuses that the Palestinians live under occupation, that the PA is too weak to disarm Hamas, that violence is not the policy of the PA. Hamas and the PA will be the same: What Hamas does is what the PA will stand for.
A very good point. However, I don't think that this is going to be an "if they bomb Israel" situation but "when they bomb Israel." Consider their own public statements leading up to the war:
The Hamas election platform includes a declaration of intent to "eliminate the occupation," but does not mention the eradication of Israel. Upon the publication of the platform, there were various reactions to the omission of this objective, which is often mentioned by Hamas and appears in its charter. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri vehemently denied that there was any contradiction between the platform and Hamas's charter: "The platform refers to details and implementation methods for the next four years, while the charter lays out our permanent strategic views."
Salah Al-Bardawil, another candidate on the Hamas list, stated that "Hamas has never proposed to change or amend its charter. The platform presents a realistic view that reflects Hamas's goals for the next four years. Had we spoken of eliminating and eradicating Israel within this period, we would have been be deceiving our people and repeating false slogans. But this does not stand in contradiction [to the fact that] we place emphasis on the elimination and non-recognition of Israel."
Hmm . . . with words like that, I wonder how the next few years will go. Hamas wants to bomb Israel, but will it hold off on doing so due to pragmatic reasons? I'm incredibly doubtful, but only time will tell.
What I do know is that whether or not we ought to blame the outcomes on the Palestinian people, the new Hamas government has a huge responsibility in their hands. If they outright attack Israel, the response from Israel will be brutal and efficient, and rightfully so. Hamas will thus succeed in making their people's already poor lot in life a whole lot worse.