The 2006 elections in Palestine were a difficult test for Hamas on the one hand, and for the EU and US on the other. Hamas entered the elections based on its programme of resistance, rejection of the Oslo Accords, and no recognition of Israel. The US and the West, including the EU, expected a victory for Fatah which would rein in Hamas and force it to accept negotiations and recognise Israel. The results were not what was expected, and Hamas won by a comfortable majority.
Israel, the US, and the West refused to recognise the Hamas government's legitimacy and imposed the following conditions on it: recognise Israel, accept international resolutions, accept negotiations and renounce resistance. Do all of that, Hamas was told, and they can do business.
Fifteen years later, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge and the Palestinians are finally returning to elections. Will the EU in particular accept another victory for Hamas later this year? Have the conditions melted away in the face of the huge changes that have taken place since 2006, or is everything still the same?
Some European sources indicate that the EU has shifted from its previous position, with the exception of one of its member countries governed by an extreme right-wing party, as the majority intend to deal with Hamas in a different way than in 2006. This is especially if Hamas wins the elections and shows some flexibility towards accepting a two-state solution. The bloc would also be willing to deal with Hamas if it is in partnership with Fatah in the Palestinian Legislative Council and government, and if the government accepts the two-state solution.
The bottom line is that the EU countries are no longer adhering to the four conditions in their entirety, especially after last year's Arab normalisation deals, and the threats posed by the "deal of the century" against European intentions. This will also be the case given Hamas's experience in its de facto government and if the people re-elect it.
It can be said that Hamas's steadfastness and commitment to its position, as well as its defence of the Palestinian constants, have impressed some key people in the EU. This takes into account the fact that it had to govern the Gaza Strip despite a 15-year blockade. In doing so, it demonstrated its administrative capacity with relatively little, if any, corruption, and with a good degree of democratic practice. This has persuaded the EU to review its old positions and take a stance that allows it to deal with Hamas if it wins the elections or partners with Fatah in government. This not only suggests that Hamas serves the people well and that the Palestinian voters are highly appreciated, but also that the people are the decision-makers, inside Palestine as well as on the level of international relations.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Felesteen on 8 February 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.