Palestinians choose change

by Beacon Staff • February 2, 2006

With the votes counted, it is clear that the group, deemed a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, now dominates the Palestinian Authority and, by extension, the Palestinian people.,Last week's Palestinian elections confirmed what Middle East experts have been predicting for months: Hamas would seriously challenge the four decades long political paradigm in the occupied territories.

With the votes counted, it is clear that the group, deemed a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, now dominates the Palestinian Authority and, by extension, the Palestinian people.

In both the lead up to and aftermath of the election, there has been a great fuss about this unsurprising, yet nonetheless alarming, turn of events.

Israel prohibited Hamas candidates from campaigning in East Jerusalem but otherwise steered clear of disrupting the process.

The United States, wanting peace and democracy but abiding by its "no negotiation with terrorists" policy, committed dollars and diplomacy to strengthen the opposing Fatah party's hand, but to no avail.

Hamas ran away with the election, garnering 58 percent of the vote, while Fatah, the party engineered by the late Yasser Arafat and inherited by Mahmoud Abbas, received a measly 33 percent.

What remains of the "road map to peace" is now in question. There is real fear that the best outcome for Israeli and Palestinian relations can only be status quo, while the worst is another relapse into violence.

The parties involved are all running scared, forecasting dire consequences of a Hamas-dominated government. It would be easy to join the sour rhetoric, but instead, I say to Hamas: mazel tov.

Hamas is to Israel what al Qaeda is to the United States. Any organization that attacks against innocent civilians deserves to be dealt with harshly.

Palestinians did not vote for Hamas, a religious party with theocratic ambitions, for religious reasons.

They instead voted against 40 years of corruption and socioeconomic stagnation that defined the Palestinian Authority and its ruling Fatah party.

If Hamas wants to avoid becoming the new Fatah, it has no choice but to moderate its ways.

It is simply not possible to wage an unwinnable war against Israel and improve the lives of Palestinians.

Arafat believed this, and when he died, his people were no better off than the day he first came into power. The choice Hamas must make is simple: recognize the political reality that Israel is not going anywhere, or perpetuate the destructive illusion that Israel can be defeated militarily.

Should they choose not to continue calling on the destruction of Israel, Hamas can focus solely on the needs of Palestinians.

On the international level, a pacified Hamas would serve as proof that terrorists are indeed capable of reform.

Should Hamas refuse to alter its course, only the party would suffer. A belligerent Palestinian Authority would push the Israeli electorate to Benjamin Netanyahu-the Likud leader with no desire to negotiate or concede.

Hamas should not mistake its strong mandate as legitimacy for terror.

Party leadership must be mindful that what was important to voters last week was not its agenda, but simply the fact that Hamas is not Fatah.

The message of the election was clear: Palestinians want change. They expect and demand progress. They require hope and prosperity, dignity and respect.

To provide the life Palestinians deserve and to preserve their own power, Hamas will have to offer more than martyrs.

William Glucroft is a sophomore print journalism major and a contributer to The Beacon.