Sunday, January 29, 2006

Palestinian elections: my view.

But before my views, here's David Warren, who seems to share a lot of them on this issue, but without discussion of the consequences of the Hamas victory.

The first principle I understand here is that the Palestinians do not want a settlement with Israel. Therefore they have no political party which seriously proposes it.

Secondly, the only thing holding Fatah together was the sense that its labyrinthine machinations were coordinated by Yasser Arafat. No one thought Arafat would seriously make peace with Israel, or lose out in negotiations. Arafat was happy to have Hamas in the wings and took no action against it, supremely confident as he was of his support from the West in confronting Israel.

The death of Arafat meant that many were free to think again about who to trust to prosecute their war against Israel. The prospect of an end to Ariel Sharon allured by giving them an extra boost in seeking effective confrontation. In the absence of both the dominant leaders, they could also register their rage at the killing of other potential leaders like Rantissi and Yassin, knowing that it would only embellish the notion of a 'deathless' Palestinian cause among their supporters.

There is a lot of talk about an anti-corruption vote. I think this was just a coded way for Hamas to say they will make a more effective war party. I don't remember much talk of corruption when the 'saintly' Arafat walked the earth.

Thirdly, and linked to the first, I think that there was no democratic vote this month in the territory occupied by Palestinians around and inside Israel. It's a war vote, and the only options were effectively derived from a wartime coalition- the same one that's held power for decades. The democratic element is a western construct because it means nothing to the Palestinians in their situation. It's just a politically staged event with an unspecified outcome in matters internal to the wartime coalition, designed to give the Palestinians chance to become enthusiastic about their war again.

Saying all this though, I think it will backfire. The Palestinian people, moved by their impotence and failure, have gone on the record saying that they hate Israel and can't tolerate it. They may have done so under distress, but nevertheless they have. Once it becomes undeniable that one party to a dispute is irrational and unreconcilable, the rational party tends to win the sympathy of any powers that be. The unwinding of Arafat's factional scheme has exposed the hard facts in a way never before seen. Although it may take time, and there may be setbacks, there are only two options: one is that the Palestinians back down by bringing to power a serious moderate (thus sueing for peace); the other is that they betray their hatred repeatedly in the face of a defensively organised yet assertive Israel inspired by the success of Sharon, and have to sue for peace because the costs of war can't be sustained by their squalid societal framework.

And, just to top and tail my post, Steve Plaut agrees with some of my assumptions but has a radically different view of what the future holds. His urgency demands respect; his site is under attack from a sick hacking game; his latest post (29/1) is immensely worth reading. I can well understand his fears, and it makes sense to express them. If I disagree from my easy armchair, it's because I think that the Palestinians are too uncoordinated to challenge Israel in a straight military fight of any kind, and too unsophisticated to marry nihilism with diplomacy. My biggest fear is of an unconventional attack; apart from that, I think if Israel sticks to the Sharon line of building their fence and pursuing their attackers right to their homes, I think they'll hold their own and be ok. I'll just link Plaut's site though as the sickos have made linking specific posts intolerable. Touch wood I'm not worth such attention.

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