Creating new perspectives since 2009

Palestine and the election game (Part 2)

February 1, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Palestinian Fatah movement leader Azzam Al-Ahmad (R) and Deputy Chairman of the Movement’s Political Bureau Saleh Al-Arouri (L) in Cairo, Egypt on 12 October 2017 [Ahmed Gamil/Anadolu Agency]

Read part 1 here

After the terrible defeat of the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Egyptians woke from the shock and, typically, mocked the tragedy in their jokes. They did this as a release for their anger. One well-known humorous incident at the time saw broadcaster Amal Fahmy interviewing King Hussein of Jordan on her radio show, “At the Street Corner”. In the end, she asked him what song he would like to hear. He said “Love is on the way” by Abdel Halim Hafez, with the line, “The one who got us into this must get us out”. This, of course, was understood to be directed at President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had involved Jordan in the war.

I was reminded of this when I heard that Hamas was extremely keen to go along with the election decree issued by the president of security coordination with Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, and the movement’s concession of its main condition that legislative, presidential and PNC elections take place simultaneously. Instead, Hamas agreed for them to be held consecutively, as Abbas wanted. The movement appears to be saying, “The one who got us into this must get us out.” The one who got them into the 2006 elections must get them out of the consequences, and out of the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. This is even if the way out is through elections involving the same people who helped besiege the Palestinians in Gaza and starve them, prevent aid from getting through, and cut off the salaries of public servants in the territory.

The truth is that the one who got Hamas into it was Hamas itself with its agreement to be part of the political process arising from the ill-fated Oslo Accords. It is a resistance movement that shoulders the burden of the Palestinian cause and is committed to the national constants that Fatah has abandoned, which has led to the loss of the Palestinian rights we are witnessing now.

There has never been a resistance movement anywhere that entered the political arena while its country still suffered under occupation. Without exception, each one liberated its country and then got involved in politics, making the preservation of the country’s independence the movement’s political priority.

OPINION: What are Palestinian voters asking for?

However, Hamas entered the world of politics hastily after forcing Ariel Sharon to withdraw Israel from Gaza under pressure from the valiant resistance in 2005. I do not wish to be unfair to Hamas and too harsh, as it is already under a lot of pressure, so perhaps it feared that the unilateral Israeli withdrawal — an important Palestinian achievement — would be wasted by the Oslo Authority in Ramallah, which lost what was left of historic Palestine in the West Bank. Perhaps Hamas wanted to protect the land and have political legitimacy that would allow it to play such an important role.

Late opposition leader Ariel Sharon of the right-wing Likud on 24 July 2000 on the Mount of Olives [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

Late opposition leader Ariel Sharon of the right-wing Likud on 24 July 2000 on the Mount of Olives [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

Of course, many countries encouraged the movement to take this step, some of which support the resistance, while others like the US or the EU countries wanted the movement to get involved in politics, abandon resistance and surrender its arms. Hamas duly participated in the 2006 elections after receiving reassurances from these countries, and it won. It suggested to Fatah that they should join together in government, but Fatah refused and hindered everything that Hamas tried to do. Supposed friends and foes alike ganged up on it — and this was something that Hamas took into consideration before making its decision — and the movement has been living with the consequences, including the siege, for the past 15 years.

Israel reluctantly agreed to hold the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, under pressure from the George W Bush administration. When Hamas won, the Israelis blamed Bush, saying that they were wrong to succumb to this pressure, which included allowing elections to be held in Jerusalem as well. So why doesn’t Hamas also admit that it made a mistake by running in the elections?

Israel may correct its mistake in the recently announced polls by preventing them before they even begin. In doing so, Abbas will have got what he wants, appearing to the world as a democratic man prevented by the occupation authorities from holding elections. This may even occur in coordination with Abbas in order to prolong the status quo, thus allowing Israel to seize the rest of the West Bank and liquidate the Palestinian issue, while Abbas remains president for life.

Israel may not resort to declaring publicly that it is against the elections, but it will set impossible conditions and take every obstructive measure in this regard. Naturally, it will return to the old Middle East Quartet condition of not recognising any Palestinian government with Hamas in it unless the newly-elected PA recognises Israel and the previously signed agreements, and also rejects “terrorism”.

Is Hamas willing to offer such recognition? I am certain that this will never happen, even if they hold the gallows over the movement’s head.

To be continued…

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.