S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Middle East - What Now?

What is the world to do now?
"Life has handed lemons" to Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, with whom I have some familiarity. A transition leader following the death of Yasser Arafat, Abbas was never able to reign in the Islamist terrorists in Palestine. His party, emerging for the PLO, was seen by the average Palestinian as corrupt and ineffective. As a result, the Fatah party may have been booted out by the militant Hamas party in a historically democratic parliamentary election (see BBC Hamas profile via title link above, and *References below).

Cause for celebration, and by whom? Will this election result in a big pitcher of lemonade to quench a thirst for peace? Aljazeera reports that Hamas may have won a majority in yesterday's Palestinian elections, giving the militant party the right to form the next government.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei and his cabinet have resigned after the Islamic resistance movement Hamas claimed victory in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. . . Although results have yet to be confirmed by the official Palestinian election authority, officials from Abbas' ruling Fatah faction of President have confirmed claims from Hamas to have won a majority of seats. That would put the party in position to shape a new Palestinian government - a situation that could dim prospects for restarting peace talks with Israel. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he would step down if he could no longer pursue his peace agenda with Israel. . . Talal Ukal, a Palestinian commentator and political analyst, described the election as a watershed. "It is obvious that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era and we all must come to terms and adapt to the new reality," he said on Thursday.
Will it be a coalition government? It does not sound like Fatah is willing to try to "make lemonade from the lemon-y election." They will probably choose to be the party in opposition. It will be fascinating to see whether Abu Mazen can convince Hamas to join an effort towards peace with Israel. It is probably unlikely. And Abbas will not stay on as President if that turns out to be the case. The BBC's story reports that current Prime Minister,

Mr. Qurei has gone to see Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to hand in his formal resignation. . . Hamas says it will ask Fatah to join a coalition, but Fatah officials say they will not sit in government with Hamas. . . Hamas claimed it had won at least 70 seats in the 132-member parliament, while EU election observer Richard Howitt told the BBC he had been informed that Hamas could have won up to 80 seats. The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem says there is no doubt that the Hamas showing has transformed the Palestinian political arena. . . Hamas is also now a major power and it will enter parliament still committed to its armed confrontation with Israel, our correspondent adds. . . With victory looming, senior Hamas official Ismail Haniya said the group would discuss political partnership with Fatah. "This issue is going to be one of our priorities in the near future," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying. But senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub told Reuters: "Fatah rejects participating in a government formed by Hamas."
Questions about meaning of elections: Is this to be a celebration or a wake? The results may or may not signal a bitter defeat for the Middle East peace process. Israel and the West are at the crossroads now. The United States, the European Union and Israel face enormous strategic dilemmas. Israel, the US and the EU consider Hamas a terrorist group and have said they do not want to deal with it. Time will tell whether Hamas can govern as well as fight. Reuters in MSNBC reports in this story that there are a number of implications attached to the victory, including diminished chances for peace in the Middle East.
A more optimistic view: In my most optimistic moments I have this vision of the members of Hamas taking their empowerment in the right direction. If getting power is what was driving the violence, then perhaps violence will no longer be felt to be necessary by the party leaders. Could they avoid Arafat's trap of never being able to transform himself from a revolutionary to a statesman? Or can they avoid Mahmoud Abbas' trap of getting "fat and happy" with empowerment? Time will tell, but I am not as pessimistic as many are today. I hope that Hamas can transform itself to where the social programs arm of the party is more dominant, thereby disempowering the armed wing of the party, the Qassam Brigades. Israel is poised right not to nudge that direction one way or another, based on their own upcoming elections. If they become so afraid of Hamas that they elect the right wingers, then war seems inevitable. If Israelis can think optimistically, a long shot to be sure, they might elect the party that has the vision to make peace in what seems like a very "un-peaceful" climate. There were little glimpses of a peaceful climate at Christmas last year.
Writing in "The Joy of Discovery"- December 26, 2005. I talk about a recent brief period of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. To quote,
Civilility - "Christmas pilgrims return to Bethlehem" Dare we hope for the beginnings of a more robust peace between Palestine and Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon is getting his heart fixed. Wouldn't it be great if that worked in a spiritual way also? Calls for peace resonated in Bethlehem on Sunday as a lull in violence spurred the biggest influx of Christmas pilgrims for years to the town where Christians believe Jesus was born. Both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in messages they were committed to peacemaking in 2006. . . Taking advantage of a truce that Palestinian militants have said they will follow to the end of the year, thousands of pilgrims and tourists came to Bethlehem.

*References to Abbas in previous posts, including the one yesterday:
  1. "Directions in the Middle East?" - January 5, 2005
  2. "Iraq in 10 Years?" - 10/21/05
  3. "Middle East Process at a Critical Point" - August 10, 2005
My "creative" post today at Southwest Blogger is about the "little" holidays, such as Groundhog Day.

No comments: