Hamas could spell success for freedom

In wake of the recent Palestinian elections, we can reasonably conclude with an answer and a question: forms of democracy can work just fine in the Middle East, but who, in fact, does it work for?

Just over two weeks ago, through free and fair elections, Palestinians confirmed a majority government under the leadership of Hamas, the notorious terrorist political organization. Whichever face Hamas will choose to portray is still questionable, however, the group’s background, statements, and actions are tangibles that cannot be disputed. Most people (notably, President George W. Bush’s biggest foreign policy critics, but more than a few supporters as well) believe that these election results will confirm our worst fears concerning the Bush Doctrine, i.e. that Middle Eastern democracy will work to put Islamo-fascists and terrorist front-groups into power.

On the contrary, despite any apparent short-term setbacks, the region is on the right course and, if the U.S. plays its cards right, Palestine’s election results may be a blessing in disguise.

Three possible scenarios are likely to result from Hamas’ leadership. For all intents and purposes, Hamas could surprise us all by focusing their energy on solving the everyday problems of Palestinians. In turn, this would motivate the former ruling party, Fatah, to address issues of corruption within their own camp in order to stay competitive with Hamas. Most importantly, for every day Hamas devotes to Palestinian domestic issues, there is one less they can devote to terror. And if their elections remain legitimate, Palestinians can always elect new leaders if the current ones do not suffice.

This scenario, however, may be more than a bit idealistic. Perhaps it is safer to wager that a power-sharing situation will come about, whereby Hamas cannot act too extremely without Fatah checking its power. We must remember that although Hamas has been given a ruling majority, Fatah still controls arguably the two most important Palestinian institutions: the security forces and the presidency.

Hamas might have the power to ably reform some of the government’s more corrupt arms, but perhaps not enough to completely take them over. At the same time, Fatah will have just enough power to prevent Hamas from completely crippling the peace process with Israel, or enacting embarrassingly authoritarian laws. After years of necessary compromising, both parties would naturally moderate.

It is worth noting that Hamas is not the only party in Palestine that is guilty of terrorist activities. Fatah was the originators of Palestinian terrorism going back than 40 years, and to this day, continue to financially support the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Recent evidence shows that Hamas itself may be moderating already, as they have held true to their cease-fire with Israel over the past year and claim they will continue to uphold it.

Finally, there is the worst-case scenario: that Hamas will work to eliminate all opposition that stands in their way, and will look to turn Palestine into an Arabic Third Reich. Unfortunately, the possibility of such an occurrence is very real. But it is not hard, if one looks, to find a bright side to this scenario.

For years, the Palestinian Authority under Fatah was able to siphon off money and sympathy from the West under the guise that they were not directly responsible for terrorist actions, and needed more institutional authority in order to successfully stem the tide of Palestinian violence.

At the very least, Hamas will be a more honest partner at the negotiating table, as they are not too bashful to admit who and what they are. Hamas can legitimately curb terror attacks if it so chooses, whereas Fatah was too spineless to do the same.

If nothing else, the Palestinian people can now be held responsible for their leaders’ actions in the same way the Germans shared responsibility for the Nazi regime, because they have given Hamas their full approval. Palestinian terrorists can no longer hide beneath the shadows. This makes the question of military retaliation a lot simpler if deemed necessary by Israel.

Under each of these scenarios, there is an upside that would not be provided if Fatah remained in power. The fact that Hamas was democratically elected should not surprise or dismay anyone. The United States is very unpopular in the region, and despite what many may think, it has little to do with the War on Terror. In fact, we are disliked in the region precisely because of our support, in the last century, for dictators and autocrats in the name of stability in almost every relevant Arabic country.

Our new policy of supporting self-determination in the Middle East, despite its questionable short-term effects, will in the long-run elicit the appreciation and admiration of many Arabs, and will ultimately benefit stability and peace there as well.