An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service
January 28, 2006
Hamas took 76 seats in the 132-seat parliament with 60 percent of the vote, ousting the corrupt and inefficient Fatah government with a praiseworthy platform of honest government, improved public services and law and order. Politics the way it's supposed to be.
Unfortunately, Hamas - full name, Islamic Resistance Movement - is committed to the destruction of Israel and has tried to bring that about through terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings on Israelis. The United States and Europe classify Hamas as a terrorist organization and, with respect to Israel, Hamas has never claimed that it isn't.
All of this is very awkward now that Hamas will govern Palestine. It is critical to the Palestinians that they have a government that can negotiate international agreements and abide by the terms.
However, Hamas in principle is opposed to negotiations with the Israelis and says that it will not, as the United States and Israel have insisted, disarm its militant, terrorist wing.
President Bush hopes to see his moribund road map to Mideast peace revived. But that would entail dealing with Hamas, and the president's position is simply, "Not until you renounce your desire to destroy Israel will we deal with you." For its part, Israel says it will not deal with "a terrorist organization."
For the moment, this is a Catch-22 situation, complicated because, even if there were negotiations, there is nobody on the Israeli side to negotiate with until a successor government takes over from incapacitated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Its popularity at the polls was due in part to the extensive network of hospitals, schools and charities it runs. And history is full of examples of violent outsiders being domesticated by the responsibilities of having to govern. Clearly, the Palestinian voters saw something in Hamas other than reflexive hostility to Israel.
And Bush probably did not have Hamas in mind when he talked about bringing democracy to the Mideast, but there it was: A peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections in an Arab land. Maybe it's a start.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com