Following a landslide victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, many commentators seemed to be competing against one another by painting gloomy pictures of things to come. However, the hard-line Palestinian militant organization may change its tough stance on key issues after rising to power.
The victory of Hamas in January 2006 elections was highly predictable yet most experts opted to skip the subject as though they hoped to see the voters’ support to the radical movement erode if the media hushed up Hamas’s popularity. The reasons behind the movement’s popularity do not stem from the alleged bloodthirstiness of the Palestinians. The point is that today there is no alternative whatsoever to Hamas in terms of a government force.
Fatah has become notorious for its incompetence and corruption. On the other hand, Hamas got a majority of the votes because the voters did appreciate the success of several social programs launched by the organization. In other words, the radical Islamic movement received a vote of confidence from the electorate, which apparently counted on more tolerant and constructive approach of Hamas as a government force to dealing with a variety of issues.
Predictably enough, Hamas began to gradually give up its belligerent rhetoric after coming to power. Even the most hard-line figures of the organization seem to appreciate that Hamas will now have to shift from terrorist activity and concentrate on daily community and social issues. The world history indicates that a political organization can remain radical as long as it sticks to the opposition. Coming to power invariably leads to moderation in views and policies of most radical groups.
These days we can hear conciliatory statements being made by the Hamas leaders. Ismail Haniyeh, one of the most public of the Hamas figures, has recently toured the Arab countries to seek support for the new Palestinian government. Speaking in Cairo, he said that Hamas was simply incapable of destroying Israel, which has the nuclear capability and other state-of-the-art weaponry.
So far the Hamas officials have not been known for showing a sense of political realism far too often. Assumedly, the organization is currently undergoing changes with regard to its tactics and strategy. It is a fact that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is a breach of the international accords on the borders of a Jewish state. The Palestinians could benefit from the recognition of Israel and thus win more support on the international scene because they could always point out the violation of the UN resolution by Israel. The reaction of the other parties involved in the Middle East conflict is quite noteworthy. The latest example is a decision of the Israeli government to release $54 million in monthly taxes and border duties owed to the Palestinian Authority. Israel collects taxes and duties on behalf of the Palestinians but last week it threatened to withhold them, a move that could have deepened the PA’s financial and social crisis that is likely to increase the number of the young and desperate – a prime source for recruiting suicide bombers. The Hamas leaders should bear in mind that Palestine will receive funds as long as the organization is on a moderate course and takes part in the peace process. Any acts of extremism will have a negative impact the Palestinians in the first place.
Nowadays Israel appears to be willing to compromise when dealing with Hamas. The latest developments can give a boost to further de-radicalization of the political course of the Islamic fundamentalists. That is the good news in terms of the possibility for intensifying the peace process in the Middle East.