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ICG Risk Blog - [ Hamas will produce a Prime Minister faster than the Irgun ]

Hamas will produce a Prime Minister faster than the Irgun

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Menachem Begin headed the Irgun (The National Military Organization) by 1943, was leader of Israel's opposition by 1948, and Prime Minister by 1977. The Irgun had rejected the Haganah's "restraint" policy, carried out armed reprisals against Arabs, was condemned by the Jewish Agency, later turning those same skills on the British Mandate in Palestine. The Irgun's actions then are what Israel now attacks Hamas today. It will not take a Hamas leader 34 years to gain a Palestinian prime ministership or presidency.

My comment in Hamas moves into electoral legitimacy following the West Bank municipal elections (23 December 2004) is an understatement for Hamas' 27 January showing in Gaza:

No surprise, Palestinians would like a state of their own, a functional state and not a gelded Paltustan, a viable economic state able to lift the extraordinary poverty and lack of opportunity available to most Palestinians, a state that ends a fifty year diaspora from Jew and fellow Arab alike, a state that functions a state that dispenses appropriate services to its citizens, and a state than ends the kleptocracy of its governing elite. Then certainly no surprise that "Hamas militants defeated the mainstream Palestinian movement Fatah in nine of 26 local elections [in] a foretaste of challenges confronting emerging moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas."

Officially known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas won 78 of 118 municipal council seats, while Fatah, Abbas' party, won 38. Independents and minor parties won the remainder. Hamas took control of 7 councils to Fatah's 3. While Hamas had boycotted the Presidential election of Mahmoud Abbas (9 January, 2005), all Palestinian factions, save for Islamic Jihad (Holy War), joined the Gaza elections held in ten cities. The Central Elections Committee (CEC) Palestine said that 90,000 Palestinians over age 18 in Gaza were eligible to vote for a total of 414 candidates, including 68 women, contesting those 118 seats.

Voter turnout was about 85% of eligible voters, considerably higher than the landmark post-Arafat election of a Palestinian presidential successor only drew a 70% turnout even though it was:

the eve of transfer of power of the head of what passes for a rump Palestinian state; the one individual that has simultaneously represented and robbed the Palestinian people, that has been the instrumental linchpin of failure by insuring that the Palestinian negotiation process would never reach a conclusion as for him the process rather than the conclusion was authority and legitimacy

While this election may well be a "staggering blow to the Fatah organization" a "consensus on the choice of jihad and resistance," and a repudiation of Abbas' "platform of ending violence to allow talks with the Jewish state on Palestinian statehood," it can just as easily be a vote for reform and the ability of Hamas to deliver it as Hamas won support in non-Hamas areas. (It would appear that the Israeli military is not too upset as they see local issues and the influence of local clans supporting slates of candidates as more important than national policy.)

Palestinians in Gaza, which before its occupation by Israel in 1967 was ruled by Egypt, have never voted in local elections. The previous council here was entirely appointed, and entirely Fatah.

And Fatah was corrupt top to bottom. In contrast, Hamas provided "welfare, health services, schools and kindergartens" free of corruption and nepotism to the impoverished Gaza citizens:

"They are not corrupt, and there is no nepotism," she said. "They chose the path of Islam. They helped me during this intifada, financially and with food supplies. They don't differentiate. If you are Fatah, poor and a martyr, they help you."

Who would you vote for?

A second stage of West Bank municipal elections will take place in April. (In the December West Bank vote only 26 of 350 councils were at stake, with Fatah winning 12, Hamas 8, and the balance to independents.) Parliamentary elections are slated for 17 July. One should expect Hamas to participate, and do well, in both. "The radical Islamic movement Hamas" will soon enough simply be "Hamas," just like, say, Likud.

Democracy's New Face: Radical and Female
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
January 29, 2005

Hamas Makes Huge Gains in Gaza Strip Elections
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post
January 28, 2005

Middle East: Hamas Claims Victory In Municipal Elections In Gaza Strip
RFE/RL
Friday, 28 January 2005

Gordon Housworth



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