In democracies all over the world elections form the backbone of the state. International observers are used to ensure that elections in fledging democratic states are free and fair.
Many people are looking forward to the results of the next Palestinian elections in order to prove that they are not fraudulent and that there is true democracy in place. This, however, may not be enough, for we know that the United States and a number of Western countries refused to accept the results of the most recent Palestinian elections, despite the presence of foreign observers who produced a comprehensive report and confirmed that there were no irregularities. Of course, the objections were due to one thing only; Hamas won.
As a result, the West installed in Ramallah a government appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, with an Israel-friendly prime minister in Salam Fayyad. Little notice was taken of the leadership’s behaviour and the extent of its decidedly non-democratic control over the Palestinian people and institutions.
Even though Nelson Mandela spent much of his adult life behind bars, he and the African National Congress organised politically in exile and in prison. When he was set free and the ANC won the first fully democratic election in post-apartheid South Africa he was in a position to rule. The PA leadership did not reach Mandela’s level in this respect. Instead, it came from exile in Tunisia to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with luxury cars and fancy office furniture and went about its work as usual, as if nothing had changed. Moreover, dialogue between officials and Israel began at ministerial level; the people appointed to the posts were put there on the basis of their popularity and factional affiliation not their political or intellectual capabilities.
Dependent on the Americans to be honest brokers in peace talks, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah appear to have overlooked the fact that the US is, in fact, heavily biased towards the Israeli position. Even so, Washington has for years been able to convince the PA otherwise, and Ramallah has gone along with the charade.
The White House dazzled the Palestinian leadership when they first went there after the US State Department removed the Palestine Liberation Organisation from the list of “terrorist” entities. However, they have paid a heavy price for the privilege, making one concession after another to the Israelis in exchange for empty promises from the Americans, who continued to delude the PA that they were working together on the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state. When Abbas went to the UN for non-member state observer status the true face of America was revealed as Washington voted against the proposal and was unable to convince the Palestinian leadership to back down.
The Americans also failed to convince the people of the region that it is building a true democracy in Palestine; it is clear that whoever is elected has to be acceptable to the US administration. If the government also satisfies local aspirations, all well and good; if not, well, it’s a tough old world. This explains why America is working so hard in the Middle East to thwart democratic ambitions, just in case the “wrong” side wins again. Their hand is behind the coup in Egypt and, no doubt, we will see it behind other efforts “to restore democracy” by overturning, by force if necessary, the legitimate electoral will of the people if the latter choose to put Islamists in government. Democracy in Palestine, and everywhere else, has to be made in America.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.