September 6, 2016
Palestinians Schedule Elections for October: Can They—Can We—Afford this Brand of “Democracy”?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
We’ve frequently lamented the bankruptcy of Palestinian society in these Hotline issues.
Start with the Palestinian economy, which is in shambles—zero growth and huge unemployment—in no small part because billions in Western aid is routinely squandered 1) on corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, mostly in Judea and Samaria (aka “the West Bank”), and 2) by Hamas terrorists in Gaza to fund futile Islamist jihad against Israel. In addition, the Palestinians spend nearly $140 million annually in pensions to reward terrorists and their families following “successful” murders of innocent Israelis.
Then there’s the Palestinian social fabric itself, which is in tatters due to a bitter internecine struggle within Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah party, as well as between Fatah and Hamas, which have been threatening and failing to unite for near on a decade. The Fatah-Hamas battle of course represents Palestinian forces of secularism vs. those of Islamism.
Finally, Palestinian politics are effectively dominated by Fatah and Hamas dictatorships. No elections have been held by the Palestinians since 2006, which led to Hamas showing strongly and then seizing Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected president, is now in his eleventh year of a four-year term in the West Bank.
Now the Palestinians want to try again. Elections are scheduled for less than a month from now. All polls indicate that Hamas will sweep these elections, since the secularists are so fragmented, they will split the vote, leaving most elected positions to Hamas.
Seeing this outcome, many in Fatah, understandably, want to cancel the elections. The U.S. should support this position as well.
In short, any elections at this time are likely to end in disaster: Hamas is a radical Islamist terror organization that does not believe in democracy or religious pluralism. Once Hamas captures control of Palestinian power in the West Bank, we can say goodbye to the Oslo accords, to Fatah and the PA, to future “open” elections, to religious tolerance and certainly to a negotiated two-state solution. Hamas, of course, advocates only a solution in which they conquer all of Israel.
This week’s FLAME Hotline featured article is a short piece by Elliott Abrams, who, as usual, elucidates this hapless situation succinctly. Most importantly, Abrams exposes as folly any attempt on the part of Western (or Arab) politicians to force a peace process.
To help you explain to friends, family and colleagues why this and the next U.S. administration should avoid wasting diplomatic capital trying to broker a peace deal that involves the dysfunctional Palestinians, I urge you to read this brief article, below.
In addition, I hope you’ll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME’s hasbarah campaign that clearly and convincingly explains why U.S. financial aid to Israel—in contrast to that we provide to the Palestinians—is such a great investment for the United States.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
Every year, the U.S. allocates more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel. However, enemies of Israel often criticize this investment, arguing that it’s a waste of taxpayer money. Nothing could be further from the truth, yet too many Western media, including a recent op-ed in the New York Times, are buying this lie! That’s why FLAME has published a hard-hitting position paper in media nationwide—which explains the inestimable strategic value the United States receives from this support of the Jewish state. I urge you to review this outspoken hasbarah message: "Why Does Israel Matter?” This inspirational piece has appeared in magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Obama. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. aid to Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that the American people and the U.S. Congress end our support of blatantly anti-Semitic, global jihadist organizations.
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Deja vu and the coming Palestinian elections
By Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations (Pressure Points), August 29, 2016
Municipal elections are scheduled for October 8th in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas has reversed its previous position and is now participating, and may win—not as Hamas, per se, but by putting forth "fellow traveler" candidates known to be close to Hamas. The elections will likely be close.
The unpopularity of the Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah Party due to corruption, incompetence, and growing repression helps explain why West Bank voters might choose Hamas. In other cases voters may prefer Hamas's Islamism to Fatah's brand of secularism—or may prefer Hamas's manifest desire to kill Israelis over Fatah's and the PA's tamer stance. And there is another factor: in many areas Hamas is presenting a single candidate while the non-Hamas vote is split among rival contenders. As The Times of Israel reported about Hebron.
These are the first elections in more than a decade in which voting is taking place at the same time in both Gaza and the West Bank, and Hamas and Fatah are going head-to-head. As in the other cities in the West Bank, the trouble in Hebron is that because there are so many secular slates of candidates, there is a reasonable chance that the more moderate camp of Fatah and groups of its ilk will split the secular vote, paving the way for victory by Hamas candidates.
Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra is said to have said. In the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, most of these same conditions existed and the result was a narrow Hamas victory in the popular vote (44 to 41 percent) that produced a much larger Hamas majority in parliament (74 to 45). There is one difference from 2006 that is very much worth mentioning. The myth exists that the United States forced the Palestinians to hold those elections over the objections of the PA leadership. That's false (as I explained at length in my book about Bush administration policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Tested by Zion”). In fact the Palestinians had held a successful presidential election in January 2005 whose purpose was to establish the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas as Yasser Arafat's successor. They wanted parliamentary elections, again to strengthen Fatah's legitimacy, and were confident they would win. We did not force them to hold the 2006 elections. Today, at least that argument is over: no one is claiming that these elections of 2016 are being demanded by the United States and imposed by the Obama administration on a reluctant PA leadership.
But the similarities to 2006 are very striking, including the most fundamental one: allowing a terrorist group, Hamas, to contest the election without the slightest nod to stopping its terror or giving up its rule of Gaza. This is wrong for many reasons, but here are the top two. First, Hamas may win power in a number of West Bank cities but Fatah will not be able to contest elections as freely in Gaza. In this sense the dice are loaded, or to mix metaphors Hamas can say heads I win in the West Bank and tails you lose in Gaza. Second, those who wish to contest elections should be forced to choose between bullets and ballots. This is what happened in the Northern Ireland agreements, where the IRA had to end its guerrilla and terrorist war and could then run for office. It is a mistake with global implications to allow terrorist groups to have it all: to run for office like peaceful parties, but continue their violent activities. That was the mistake we made in 2006, and it is being repeated.
There is an argument for holding these elections, of course, and a powerful one. There have been no parliamentary or presidential elections in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006 and these elections provide at least a taste of democracy. They will tell us a good deal about Palestinian public opinion. And perhaps in some cases they will produce better, meaning more responsive and competent, municipal governments. But perhaps their clearest achievement will be to show that nothing has changed since 2006 and indeed for decades more: Fatah and Hamas are implacably at odds, Palestinians are split, the Palestinian "national" government and national movement are hopelessly divided, Hamas's brand of rejectionism and terror remains widely popular, and a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is nowhere in sight.
Well, one thing has changed since 2006: Abbas is ten years older and his time in office is closer to its end. Until succession issues are dealt with the notion of serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is completely unrealistic—whatever happens at the United Nations, whatever the French suggest or the Russians try, and whatever the Obama administration or its successor believe.
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