Friday, December 23, 2005

There is a very interesting situation coming in Israel. The Palestinians are supposed to have elections for the PA assembly in January. The PA assembly, like all other bodies of the Palestinian Authority are the product of the Oslo agreements signed between Israel and the Pals in 1993. In effect, under Oslo, Israel granted effective temporary autonomy to the Palestinians under the leadership of the PLO. Oslo also includes the mutual recognition of the two sides in perpetuity, with the PLO accepted as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians and the Israeli gov't of Israel.

Now, for the past 12 years or so Hamas has considered the PA as tainted by the fact that it was founded by the Oslo accords. Since Hamas never recognized the state of Israel it could not accept Oslo which included mutual recognition. For this reason Hamas has boycotted all elections to PA bodies since 1993 (it did participate in local elections, but this doesn't compromise its position).

Hamas is now going to run candidates in the Jan 25 elections. So what does this mean? Does the fact that they are running implicitly recognize Israel? Probably not.

About 3 years ago I was arguing with one of my professors that Hamas will only participate in elections when they think they can win. I believe that this is still the case. Hamas believes it can win the election. Judging from the fact that they won elections in most of the local elections in the West Bank and had a very strong showing in Gaza local elections they could be right.

What if Hamas loses? Then the big winner will be Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah "young guard" and head of the al-aksa brigades, fatah's 'militant arm'. If anybody could be held responsible for the 2nd intifada it would be him. And in fact he has been held accountable for several murders of Israeli citizens and is currently serving some number of consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison.

Abbas will still be the president (chairman or whatever), but the fact that his cronies will win so little support will completely paralyze his ability to do anything. The new Fatah 'young guard', if victorious, will certainly want their leader release from prison before negotiations take place. This will not happen. And if Hamas wins negotiations are impossible. Whatever happens the PA as conceived of in 1993 will have disappeared, with no new arrangement in sight.


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