Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has mounted a campaign against the Hamas-Fatah coalition government, calling for a boycott against it. Fortunately enough, his call did not receive a significant response, and even the American party announced a recommencement of relations with the new Palestinian government, although it will continue to boycott exclusively the Hamas ministers.
Israel discovered that Hamas being alone in power was its best shelter against international pressure for the creation of a Palestinian state. Throughout one year, it was spared international criticism meanwhile the Palestinians were engaged in violent inter-Palestinian conflicts. However, as Hamas moved to occupy center stage and accept a coalition government, there is hope that it would take that one step further and accept the Arab peace initiative, which was approved by all Arabs in Beirut and ratified by the Palestinian Authority before it.
It has become mandatory upon us to reciprocate Hamas’ conciliatory position with the same positive spirit through supporting and backing the government in order to accomplish that which is expected of it. Hamas sought to impose its political agenda that conflicted with all that the former Palestinian governments had agreed to and at the same time, seeks to benefit from its political and financial value, which was illogical. At that time Hamas was told that if it had a better project it should present it to the Palestinian people, however, it simply stated that it was a victim and under siege, demanding that Westerners pay their aid directly to it rather than the superior Palestinian Authority.
Today, we are facing a new chapter—a hybrid government headed by Hamas and including members of Fatah. In fact, the participation of Fatah ministers is not that important; rather, what is more important is adopting a clear approach. If Hamas seeks war, then it must fire first so that we can all see where it would be leading its people. On the other hand, if it believes in a peaceful solution, then it has to lead the ranks unabashed and without Fatah’s endorsement and show its proficiency in a manner that also better serves the rights of its people. In any case and in view of the fact that Hamas takes pride in being the choice of the majority of voters, Hamas can do what all truly elected governments do. In other words, it can appeal to the people to decide on the issue of negotiation. If the people empower it, let it negotiate, and if the people refuse, then no one has the right to force anything upon it.
In spite of the smiling faces that we see in the pictures, the new government will face what it had faced at the beginning that ultimately led to the bloody conflict. However, it is required to decide on moving in a clear and defined direction whether it is war or peace. But Hamas did not fight and refused to negotiate.
From my perspective, Hamas has taken a bigger step than is required of it—namely, engaging Fatah in government while it was entitled to refuse this because Hamas had won the election. Hamas, however, became immersed in the issue of negotiation. Originally, negotiation was accepted in principle by Hamas and it even sought negotiation with the Europeans, but political timidity prevented it from acknowledging that. Moreover, Fatah members ruined the efforts of secret contact, intentionally tightening the grip around Hamas, which has recently preferred to bed Fatah than to sit with the Israelis.