Few events are as badly misunderstood as the 2006 election that brought a stunning victory for Hamas.
The factors that led to that electoral victory were:
- The perception that Fatah had failed utterly to make any significant gains for the Palestinian people
- The widespread corruption that was the norm for Fatah at that time
- The in-fighting in Fatah which caused not only disillusionment, but also led to more than one Fatah candidate in numerous districts, splitting the vote
- Only the smallest factor was a moderate rise in religious nationalism among Palestinians
Hamas enjoyed a certain temporary popularity, more as an alternative than anything else. Much of the current dilemma involving Hamas arises not from their electoral victory but from the coup that the US and Israel attempted to engineer, backing Fatah in Gaza, which was thwarted by Hamas’ pre-emptive strike and led to Hamas ejecting much of
Fatah completely from Gaza and taking unilateral control.
I bring this up because a friend asked me how Hamas might be undermined today. The answer is both pragmatic and involves no devious tricks or the use of force.
The first step is easing the Gaza siege so that the people can rebuild destroyed homes and business, and resuscitate their economy. Already, even Israel has conceded this can be done without compromising security measures. And that it can be done while largely bypassing Hamas.
From there, Fatah and Hamas must be pushed toward forming a unity government that would have only one purpose—facilitating new elections for the Palestinian Authority. Polls have consistently shown that Fatah would emerge the winner, while Hamas would be a significant minority party. The most recent poll shows that the gap between the two is widening as Salam Fayyad’s popularity is increasing significantly. Continue reading