Palestinians across the West Bank say they simply do not feel they are getting help with their problems from the long-dominant Fatah movement, founded by Arafat. And they are far from certain that the war with Israel is over. So they are exercising the democracy urged on them by the Western world to explore a radical alternative – putting Hamas in charge. The group is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state and creation of Islamic Palestine in its place.
A seismic shift in the politics of the region, from secular to fundamentalist, could be developing, with negative implications for already troubled U.S. attempts to cultivate pro-Western democracy. Last month, the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center asked likely voters in the Palestinian legislative council elections what they would do if the choice boiled down to secular vs. religious options. About 48% said they would go with ”fundamentalist trends,” while 38% said they would favor secularism.
”I don’t think [Hamas] will return to armed struggle. But if there is a need, why not? If it is necessary,” said Ahmad Khadoura, 47, a Kalkilya baker. Hashem al Masri, who has been acting mayor of Kalkilya since the Hamas slate took over city hall two weeks ago, said, ”There is a certain reality now. The fact that we cannot ignore it does not mean that we accept it….There will be no peace and no security until the Palestinian people…get all their rights and live in their complete homeland” – the entire State of Israel. ”It will take a long time, but the Palestinian people will win.”
”It is an absurdity to argue that Hamas will be moderated by participation in electoral politics,” said Barry Rubin, a specialist in Arab politics who directs the international affairs research unit at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. ”Hamas’ whole special feature is radicalism, terrorism, and refusal to compromise or accept Israel….Without this, they would be just another party.” Hamas’s success is undercutting any chance that Abbas could disarm terrorist organizations or forge compromises with Israel.