Monday, July 28, 2014

How to replace Hamas: Demand free elections in Gaza.

One of the calls we hear from the Israeli right is that Israel should reoccupy Gaza and force the Hamas out of power.  Its not a very realistic demand.  Thousands of Palestinians would die as would many tens, perhaps hundreds of Israeli soldiers, the political cost would be huge internationally wth massive pressure placed on Israel to withdraw. Holding Gaza would cost far more lives then just bombing it occasionally, be very expensive and keep the army occupied as a police force instead of training for war.  It would also be deeply unpopular in Israel.  Its not even certain the Hamas would emerge any weaker.

It is however, true that Hamas are a problem for us in Israel. They are basically a religio-nationalist death-cult whose main reason for existing is to destroy Israel and who show little long-term interest in trying to improve the lot of their people. Peace is clearly not on the cards with such an organization.

The only way to have Hamas removed is for the Palestinians to do it themselves, the problem being that Hamas has an iron grip on Gaza and is still sufficently popular to maintain power.

Hamas gained power in a two stage process, first there were the only ever free elections in the territories, which they won and then they removed Fatah from Gaza. Since then there have been no new electionss, but it would seem that if elections were held and Hamas lost, it would be hard for them to prevent Fatah taking over Gaza.

Of course I don't know that Hamas would lose: they might just get stronger, or someone else like Islamic Jihad might win but there seems a resonable chance that Hamas would lose.  In addition it would be a major propaganda coup for Israel if it forced democratic elections on the Palestinians.

And if Hamas lost, what then? After all they could easily return in a future election wheither or not Israel makes peace with the Palestinians.  The doctrine of Israeli illegitimacy will not go away, and will always attract the Palestinians.  My view is that a peace treaty would strengthen Israel by giving it legitimate borders, and while I doubt that any treaty can bring permanent peace, surprises never cease to happen round here.

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