Hamas Landslide in the Palestinian Territories and Iranian Victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad Presents Unprecedented Opportunity for Middle East Peace - Will the United States and Israel Miss It Again?
Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group newly turned political party, scored a stunning, surprise upset in Palestinian parliamentary elections; ousting the ossified, corrupt, entrenched Fatah leadership.
Preliminary results give Hamas 76 seats in the 132 seat legislature, compared to 43 for Fatah. Four independent candidates, supported by Hamas, also won.
Turnout was a stunning 78% of eligible voters, compared to 61.8% in the 2004 United States presidential election just over one year ago. The highest turnout in United States history was the 1960 Kennedy - Nixon contest.
The victory of rejectionist Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel, mirrors the Iranian victory of hard line President Mahmoud Ahmed-Nejad, who has called for the State of Israel to "be wiped off the map."
These elections prove the contention of Middle East analysts that democracy in the traditionally autocratic Arab and Muslim world would lead to the rise of radical Islamic governments. The United States's invasion of Iraq, and the destruction of that most sectarian of all Middle East governments, could do nothing but promote the rise of religious fundamentalism to mirror that influencing policy and in the United States and Israel. The idea that the Jewish State of Israel and the Christian based government of George W. Bush can make Arabs embrace sectarian governments by force of arms is absurd.
These elections redress the injustice done to the Algerians in 1992 when the imminent victory of the Islamic Salvation Front was thwarted when the government, with full French and United States support, cancelled the second round of parliamentary elections that the FIS was poised to win. The cancelled elections precipitated a civil war in which at least 65,000 people lost their lives.
In democratic elections, sometimes people elect the solution (like rural electrification and roads during the New Deal) and sometimes they elect the problem and force it to govern. Just as the United States elected Richard Nixon in 1968, the candidate with a history of fierce anti-communism, and watched him normalize relations with Communist China (which he had previously rejected) and end the war in Vietnam, the Hamas and Ahmadi-Nejad victories presents a unique opportunity for Israel to negotiate with its enemies who have been given the responsibility to govern. Any agreement reached with Hamas and Ahmadi-Nejad will automatically be supported by the moderates in their countries, just as the liberal Democrats had no choice but to support Nixon's peace moves.
For Israel to have peace, it is with rejectionist Hamas and the Iranian mullahs that it must make it. People make peace with their enemies, not their allies.
The position of the United States and Israel that they will not deal with Hamas because it is a "terrorist" organization overlooks their own considerable history of terror: the Israelis in the expulsion of the Palestinians from their lands whose descendents, raised in refugee camps, are now the troops of Hamas's suicide bombers; and the United States support of Israel and its use of "shock and awe" against Iraq, not to mention abductions, torture and murder of innocent people.
The outcome of the Iranian and Palestinian elections puts George W. Bush's claims of support for democracy in the Middle East to the test. The landslide victories of the Palestinian and Iranian rejectionists presents a perfect opportunity to build a lasting peace in the Middle East. Here is George Bush's big chance, the slow pitch across home plate, to prove that he was justified in stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore. If the United States and Israel miss this opportunity, a wider war between Muslims and the West is inevitable in the long term, and an oil embargo from Iran and other third world producers is highly probable in the near term.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf