Here we are returning to the early 1980s, when Fatah was required to recognize Israel and eschew violence, in order for American and European policies to change and open channels of communication with it. It took over a decade of cautious maneuvering and Fatah continued to back down for another five years. Hamas finds itself today as Fatah did in the 1970s, faced with the high expectations of the Palestinian people and difficult demands by the international powers.
If we believe that Hamas has secured a victory fair and square, which is confirmed, we need to understand how the once opposing party is now on the verge of becoming a government. The truth is, elections would not have been held and Fatah would not have left power if it weren’t for western pressure. Hamas would not have come to power without these arrangements and external pressure. Extremists in Fatah would not have given up a single seat, let alone the entire cabinet, or the majority of seats in the legislative council. Without western interference, Hamas would have remained a popular movement or would have seized power by force. Military confrontation is unlikely; even if it did occur, its results will be weak in front of Fatah who dominates the security forces and Israel who will also fight Hamas.
The Islamic movement is aware that, if it weren’t for external pressure, the elections would not have taken place. If it didn’t accept them, Hamas would not have entered the competition. If it weren’t for foreign intervention, the vote would have been called off at the last minute, after members of Fatah resorted to old tricks such as saying no elections would be held under occupation, or no election would take place without the participation of the inhabitants of East Jerusalem, or even that the elections would not be valid unless prisoners were granted the right to vote. Washington had to intervene and pressure Israel to eliminate all these pretexts.
More than two thirds of Palestinians voted and the majority chose Hamas. According to the rules of democracy, Hamas will assume power. However, democracy will not grant the movement immunity, protection, or financial aid, which Fatah had received from the international powers.
The entire world is hostage to Hamas. I hope that its government will not be under its mercy. Its victory might represent a great opportunity for peacemaking but it can also represent another tragedy for the Palestinian people. It could stand for an opportunity because it is trusted by the Palestinians more than Fatah and other factions who lost because of its hollow promises, mismanagement and the corruption of senior officials. The win is an opportunity because, when Hamas says yes, it can implement its pledge. On the other hand, Hamas could bring about a tragedy for the Palestinian cause and people, if it stands by its rejectionist positions. With its extremist policies, it could deprive the Palestinians of all the gains the have attained with their blood and the concessions in the negotiations during the past decade. The Palestinian political process, in case opposition prevailed, will suffer from a relapse and even fighting with the occupation, that could force Fatah to seize power by force, with the support of the international community, regional powers and Israel. This is when the tragedy will take place.
The world is in search for a clean, popular and responsible government. Hamas is capable of combining these three assets.