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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why Hamas won

I have mentioned before that there are two very consistent patterns that explain the entire Arab/Israeli conflict for the past century:

1) Israelis want security.
2) Arab leaders want to destroy Israel.

Essentially every political and military move done by both sides since before 1948 can be remarkably explained by those two concepts. There are rare exceptions, perhaps Jordan is one of them, but on the whole it is a very good rule of thumb that can be used both to understand history and to understand current events.

There is a third consistent pattern as well:

3) Arab people just want to raise their families with dignity and pride.

The entire brief history of the Palestinian Arabs shows this to be true. The ones who lived in Palestine in the 1800s didn't care that they were under Ottoman rule, they didn't crave independence. After the Jews started coming in serious numbers and the economy boomed, many (I believe most) of the ancestors of today's Palestinian Arabs moved into Palestine from Syria and Jordan, because that was how they could best provide for their families. More moved in under British rule than under Ottoman rule, because economic concerns were far more important than political concerns.

If "independence" was the uppermost concern of Arabs, then why do over a million choose to stay in Israel rather than move to PA-administered areas? As the Clinton team famously observed, "it's the economy, stupid."

The people who have screwed the Palestinian Arabs the most have always been their "leaders." It was their leaders who decided to force them to boycott Jewish goods to their detriment, it was their leaders who kept them in "refugee" camps, it was their leaders who forced them to fight losing battles against the hated Zionists.

The "golden age" of Palestinian Arabs was during the "occupation" - this was when they had good paying jobs, when Israel built them an electrical and safe water infrastructure, when the Zionists used their devious Jewish expertise to dramatically increase the Palestinian Arab life expectancy and slash their infant mortality rates. During Oslo, tens of thousands of Jordanians moved illegally into the West Bank so they could raise their families in the comparative paradise that Israel built for the Palestinian Arabs.

The ordinary Palestinian doesn't care who his leader is or about Zionism or occupation or terror or democracy as long as his basic needs are met.

This is the background needed to understand the Hamas victory.

The Palestinian Arabs did not vote for terror or to destroy Israel. They just voted for the party that actually has a chance to improve their day-to-day lives. The party that actually has social programs and builds schools and hospitals. The party that is not headed by "leaders" who live in expensive villas.

The average Palestinian remembers quite well that only a few years ago, they had jobs and they had their pride. They know that Israel treated them better than any Arab leader ever has. Certainly they are subject to brainwashing from the constant incitement against Israel and Jews in their media, but fundamentally their main concern is how to provide for their families with pride, not Israel. It was clear that Fatah would not ever do anything for them. This was highlighted by the chaos in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal and the PA's incompetence at actually leading.

So, ironically, Israel helped elect Hamas. Also ironically, in what was perhaps the first free election the Palestinian Arabs ever had, they decided to kick out the leaders who screwed them over. And the final irony is that the US and EU backed the leaders who were screwing the Palestinians, which will not help world influence in the future.

The interesting part is that for all of its anti-Israel positions, Hamas will have no choice but to deal with Israel in some capacity, or else it will fail the people who elected it. If Hamas refuses to work with Israel at all, the Palestinians won't be able to cross the border at all, and vital services like water and electricity will end up disappearing. Nothing moderates like pragmatism. Terror will still continue and be supported indirectly by Hamas but if Hamas wants what is best for its people it will have to work with the enemy.

From Israel's perspective, it should emphasize the fact that it has no problem with Palestinian Arabs themselves and it will do anything possible to help them as long as it doesn't jeopardize Israel's own security. At this point Hamas needs Israel much more than Israel needs Hamas but since there is now a working democracy in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas has to be much more careful as to how it acts, both in relations to the people and to Israel.

A major danger to worry about is that Hamas will demolish the democratic process and create yet another Islamist theocracy. If that is their aim, things are much less predictable.

As far as the peace process goes - there never was a peace process, just a process where Israel keeps giving concessions in exchange for nothing. Stopping such a "peace process" is a very desirable outcome from these elections, and detente is much better than a "peace process" punctuated by daily terror attacks.