The absolutely devastating landslide victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections was remarkable to all political observers. This victory was also quite shocking to Israel and the international community. Even the Palestinian voters were shocked by the outcome of the democratic process. This absolute victory is due to many internal and external factors that contributed to it:
- Hamas is a very disciplined and organized movement, they planned their strategy well beginning with their take-over of most local governments that were completed at the end of last year. "The first credit should be for Hamas itself"
- The fragmentation and the disruptive behavior inside Fateh resulted in presenting multiple Fateh candidates in the districts, causing a total dispersion of the Fateh votes.]
- The Israeli unilateral withdraw from Gaza, was considered publicly, a victory for Hamas for its armed resistance policy in forcing Israel to withdraw from Gaza.
- The calls by the international community and Israel – prior to the election- to boycott Hamas empowered Hamas’ position within Palestinian public opinion.
- The failure of the previous governments and the outgoing Palestinian Legislative Council in bringing any noteworthy changes to the horrible internal economical and social situation, especially concerning the high level of poverty and unemployment.
- The chaos and anarchy in the Palestinian cities, and the weakness of the Palestinian Authority to take serious actions against fugitives whom were mainly Fateh militants.
- Unadulterated corruption and misuse of powers, by senior Palestinian Authority officials.
- The successful social programs Hamas carried out locally for the last two decades.
- The impasse and absence of any progress on the peace process.
- The Israeli policy of collective punishments.
- Palestinians are considered a conservative community and they sympathy with Islamic callings.
Hamas’ victory had caused a lot of confusion in the region. Some might have predicted the victory, but very few had expected its extent. Many are sceptical with Hamas’ capability to deal with the complex of many complicated internal and external issues it will have to deal with. It is obvious that Hamas itself wasn’t prepared for its own victory as well. The question now facing us all is how we are going to deal with the new reality?
It is a fact that Hamas had planed to eventually win the Palestinian legislative elections as part of their long planned strategy. They hoped to gradually replace the Palestinian Authority and the domination of Fateh by presenting a substitute Islamic trend. Hamas preferred to take on a role of influencing the formulation of the new Legislative Council. In fact, Hamas preferred to lead a tough opposition and to serve as an effective overseer of the Authority. Hamas had hoped to stimulate a process of change for the daily living of the Palestinians through new legislation that would improve the social and economic situation in Palestine. They also thought that working inside the Parliament would be a useful tool to open the file of corruption and to bring all accused to trial, and at the same time to hinder any future political agreements and concessions to Israel.
In addition to above, Hamas had a long strategy not to go into an early confrontation with all sides: Fateh, Israel and the International community. It preferred to reach a gradual Palestinian consensus according to their political Islamic theocracy and their policy of no negotiations, no acceptance to the existence of Israel, and to continued armed resistance. Now, through the elections Hamas has gained recognition and legitimacy without abandoning their armed resistance, nor recognizing Israel or accepting the peace process.
The American administration and international community’s responses show a minimal understanding for what has happened. It is more than clear that they have not asked themselves how they helped in making it happen. Now the international community must act carefully, any international intention of cutting aid from the Palestinian Authority is a hasty reckless decision that will only increase Hamas’ support and sympathy locally.
There are some voices that believe that Hamas will be compelled to change and moderation. This is unrealistic given what we already know about Islamic movements and their dogmatic, theocratic ideologies. While the Hamas leadership reiterated on several occasions that they are tactically manoeuvring; these statements were misinterpreted as taking a pragmatic stand. But Hamas does not believe it must change; it believes that others have to adjust to Hamas. The elections results have accelerated Hamas plans and strategy. Some believe that Hamas’ new “pragmatism” can be seen in their offer to accept a conditional period of truce, but this offer is not new. Sheikh Ahmad Yassin offered the same to Israel prior to his assassination.
Hamas will unlikely, under any circumstances renounce its charter or even modify it. Hamas believes in one Holy Palestine from the river to sea. It is doubtful they will ever accept any concession on any part of historical Palestine; it is part of their fundamental beliefs. Moreover, an Islamic theocratic Palestine is part of the Hamas’ strategy. Hamas considers itself part of the Islamic Umma they would like to achieve. Hamas believes that Palestine could be the first stage that will inspire other Arab and Muslim countries.
Hamas’ is a rigid fundamental radical theocratic movement. If there is a single person on earth that can convince the Muslims to change a verse in the Holy Qura’an, then perhaps there might be a chance to change Hamas. Hamas is part of the international movement of the Muslims which has shown endurance and the ability to survive.