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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas comes to power

As if Arafat and Sharon’s passing weren’t enough to shake up the game pieces in the Middle East, certainly the apparent landslide victory by Hamas should do it.

The situation is fascinating, but only because I’m sitting safely in my house, far removed from local events there. I’m not nearly as optimistic as… say… Time magazine’s analysis:

The election victory has added new incentive for Hamas to maintain its current cease-fire with Israel. It has no interest in provoking the Israelis, because it is now determined to carry out its promises to the Palestinian electorate — promises which are very much based on local concerns over corruption and lawlessness. Before the election, many commentators had asked whether Hamas entering parliament with a minority share in power would create pressure for the movement to disarm. Now, the situation is turned on its head: Hamas will appoint its own people to run the Palestinian security services, and will make sure that many of its own militants are now drawn in to those forces. And they will have an interest in clamping down hard on violations of law and order by armed groups. It will likely instruct its own supporters to stop bearing arms in public, and it will expect the same from Fatah.

Time seems to feel that the violence of Hamas’ Izzedine al Qassam wing will be reined in by the grown-ups, now that they’re in power. At the moment, I’m more inclined the think the elections in Palestine may usher in even greater hostility and polarization over the subject of Israel and Palestine. This paragraph from an al Jazeera article says it well:

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who apparently was re-elected on a moderate platform, said the Hamas victory was a dramatic turning point. She said she is concerned the fighters will now impose their fundamentalist social agenda and lead the Palestinians into international isolation.

Furthermore, it seems terribly unlikely that Hamas is going to blithely overlook Ehud Olmert’s push forward on unilaterally setting Israel's borders and speeding the construction of the W. Bank barrier.

Nope. The Palestinian people have spoken clearly, and all in all, it looks pretty volatile from here. In fact, the situation qualifies for an "oh shit", don't ya think?