January 26, 2006,
Cairo, Egypt "Hamas By The Numbers" a fact sheet produced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee provides a chilling snapshot of the jihadist group formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement.
Now a new bullet point can be added:
On January 25, 2006, "Hamastan" the world's newest terrorist state was born.
WHAT HAPPENEDIn a landslide electoral victory overnight in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas won control of an estimated 70 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and his cabinet ministers immediately resigned their posts. The fate of Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not yet clear.
The news stunned Israelis and Palestinians alike, many of whom expected Hamas to do well, but not to win such a decisive victory. One exit poll released to the media on Wednesday night suggested Fatah would retain a thin plurality, winning 58 seats, while Hamas would come in a close second with 53 seats. Another had Fatah securing 42 percent of the roughly one million votes to be cast, and Hamas receiving only 35 percent.
In fact, "Hamas won all nine seats in the Hebron district, four of the five Ramallah seats (the fifth seat is reserved for a Christian delegate), and captured the majority of seats in Nablus, Jenin, Qalqilyah, Tul Karm and Salfit," reported Haaretz, the Israeli daily. "In the Gaza Strip Hamas won all seats in the northern, Gaza City and Dir al Balah districts. Hamas won four of the five seats in Khan Yunis, and Fatah candidate Mohammed Dahlan apparently won the fifth seat."
WHAT IT MEANSThe immediate danger is the outbreak of a Palestinian civil war, of the kind I wrote about in my novel The Last Days. In the worst-case scenario, Fatah members who have no desire to give up government ministries, patronage jobs, monthly paychecks, off-the-books slush funds, as well as access to guns and ammunition, could declare war against Hamas and fight to retain the power the have just lost at the ballot box. Skirmishes between the two groups have been on-going for months, but it could get a lot bloodier.
One thing seems certain: The Middle East peace process along with its most recent champion, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now lies in a coma.
Hamas has vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Moreover, it rejects any form of negotiation with "the Zionist entity." Consider excerpts from the Hamas charter, published in 1988 when the group was formed.
Article 13 notes that "peace initiatives" and "so-called peaceful solutions" that attempt to resolve the conflict with Israel "are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad."
Article 13 goes on to state bluntly, "There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. The Palestinian people are too noble to have their future, their right and their destiny submitted to a vain game."
WHAT THE U.S. SHOULD DOPresident Bush's efforts to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Iraq are important. But the dangerous dynamics recently underway in the West Bank and Gaza (see here, here, and here) were more likely to create a "Hamastan" than anything resembling a true liberal democracy.
The president's support of Sharon's unilateral surrender of Gaza was a serious error. It was a radical departure from the administration's own "Road Map," whereby Israel was not required to make any new concessions until the Palestinians first disarmed their own terrorists. Instead, the president encouraged Sharon to give Gaza away for nothing, without requiring the Palestinians to enact fundamental democratic reforms, or to clean up their sordid history of corruption and lawlessness, much less to crack down on terrorism.
In the end, while Sharon won widespread international plaudits by retreating from Gaza, he also sent the dangerously destabilizing message to the Palestinian people that terror, not negotiations, is the only way to regain territory. Was this not precisely the opposite of the message Mr. Bush has been trying to communicate in the War on Terror?
"The Bush administration should first confess it has made a major error in pressing for elections too quickly," Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes told me earlier today. "[It should also] look at the Palestinian Authority as it would a place where Nazis or Communists have won electoral victory, that is, as an enemy, and send it no further funding or other aid."
I agree. Specifically, President Bush should greet the Hamas victory with a policy of "Three No's" no recognition, no negotiations, and no funding.
No Recognition The United States must refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Hamas-controlled Palestinian government unless and until Hamas and all its members and factions renounce the use of political violence of all kinds and recognize Israel's right to exist and live in peace.
No Negotiations The United States should declare an end to all negotiations with a Hamas-controlled Palestinian government, unless and until the previous conditions are met. No more shuttle diplomacy. No more trips by the Secretary of State or other top officials to Ramallah or Gaza. No more Palestinian officials invited to the White House or State Department.
No Funding In his 2005 State of the Union address, President Bush called for some $350 million in new aid for the Palestinian Authority. In October, $50 million was transferred to the PA. Not one more dime. All aid should be frozen and all U.S. aid workers in the West Bank and Gaza should be withdrawn. Better yet, the U.S. should redirect Palestinian aid to the Israelis to help them finish their security fence more quickly. This will prevent more innocent Israelis and Americans from being killed by Hamas suicide bombing attacks, of which there have been 60 in recent years. Moreover, the President should direct the Secretaries of State and Treasury to persuade the European Union and all other governments to freeze funding to the PA. The EU is the world's largest donor to the Palestinians, providing some $340 million in 2005 and on track to provide some $400 million in 2006.
The world is watching how President Bush handles this democratic debacle and the birth of a new terrorist state, so soon after his defeat of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Baghdad is watching. So are Damascus, Beirut, Cairo and Riyadh.