There are at least two ways to see the current problem that Western governments face with the election of Hamas to lead the Palestinian Authority.
:: What People say ::
The first is to put it on an ethical level linked to the previous stances of the USA and Europe with respect to Democracy in the Middle East. The question would be then:
Can we consider the American and European official stance toward the new Palestinian government ethical? This question is inevitable when we see all this pressure exerted on the Palestinian people to punish them for choosing Hamas to manage its affairs. We do not intend by saying this to arouse feelings, but we believe that the matter is dangerous and that it puts on trial the credibility of all western humanitarian claims: looking for peace and a just solution in the Middle East, helping people in non-western countries to overcome their political dilemmas and get rid of their dictators, and defending human rights everywhere notwithstanding race or religion, etc.
Cutting funds and aid to the Palestinian Authority because it is led by Islamists, whereas the West submits meekly some of its freedom’s pretensions to other oil-wealthy no-less Islamist governments, will push people in the Arab and Islamic world to wonder about the real intentions of the Western States concerning the Palestinian cause and their credibility in trying to find a solution for the Middle East crisis. Here, some would put the following question, “Would western governments dare boycott the new Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians had a wealth of oil and gas similar to that existing in other countries? Wouldn’t interests in that case have their say?”
Perhaps the rational stance consists in assuming that the elections results that were testified by most observers to be honest could not be fought without consequently fighting democracy. Here some people find the Western official position in contradiction with itself: how can you defend people’s freedom in choosing their leaders, and at the same time reject the results of democratic elections, combat the authority emanating from it and punish an entire people?
By adopting such a method, the Western governments will not contribute to reaching a peaceful solution. Nor will it make evidence that they want to better the situation in the Middle East and the Arab world and make reforms viable and credible. Have these governments considered well what they do? Have they considered the repercussions that such a negative attitude will lead to?
These are some of the thoughts prevailing in the Arab streets nowadays. And we can add to them the remark that in the same time, you may easily notice that no one has moved to exert pressure on Israel, which continued the escalating policy against the Palestinian people in that it has intensified strikes on Gaza and dropped a shell on a house in Beit Lahia that injured two Palestinians and killed a girl. Israel has officially suspended security communications with the Palestinians in an attempt to increase the isolation of the Hamas government after it declared on that Hamas is a hostile entity.
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza to protest against the western governments’ cutting aids and the big increase in military operations by Israel. They expressed their anger in different ways, which could be just the beginning of an outburst bigger than Israel and its Western allies expect. This means that through these maneuvers the West may succeed only in further fuelling the Palestinians’ anger and encouraging radicalism. This is at least what we read on several Arabic newspapers. And with the last suicide operation, which Hamas failed to condemn, matters would worsen a little more, as Israel decided that the Palestinian government is “a terrorist enemy”.
Now, in what consists the second way to handle the issue?
:: What Reason says ::
When you hear the Palestinians complaining about the inconsistent behavior of Europe and America, particularly, which claim the defense of democracy and let them down when the Palestinian people votes for Hamas, the first reaction is to say: yes, they are right, it is an inconsistent behavior. But after reflexion, one wonders: when did the Westerners say that if democracy is against the Israelis, they would choose democracy and let down the Israelis? Israel is actually the love story of the West. One does not reject the woman he loves because other people say: she’s no good for you! If he is in love, he will fight the whole world for her sake. From this perspective, love is not democratic. And the West is in love with Israel.
Would The Westerners seem inconsistent because they refuse to support a government rejecting not only Israel but also everything agreed on by the previous government concerning peace process? In fact, they have always supported Israel, and they continue; and on this level they hold the same line of thought. And if you tell them “you’re inconsistent”, they would reply: democracy, without some safety conditions, may sometimes give a paradoxal result: in the thirties of the last century, Hitler reached power, by a democratic vote, and he managed to lead Germany to the ruthless and horrific dictatorship we know. So, if democracy rejects an entire people (here the Israelis), it is no democracy.
One also would say, when staring at the Palestinians claiming in the streets, their right to an independent State: it is indeed their right to have a State like any other people. But the question is: what hinder them from proclaiming it right away? After all, they can do this, and put the international community before the accomplished fact. They have allies and sympathizers inside this international community, who are assumed then to support their claim and recognize their self-proclaimed State. Yet, they do not seem ready to act this way. Why? Because, they still need the support of the great powers, and particularly that of Europe and the USA, additionally to Israel.
Israel? Yes indeed. Because, they are still very much dependent –” economically, socially, and politically –” on the Israelis and the Westerners.
These three allies (The USA, Europe, and Israel) say: you want an independent State; ok. Go and proclaim it tomorrow. If you are lucky, you will be perhaps recognized by a few number of States, but never by the West and Israel. If you want a State with our help and our agreement, you do it the way we tell you. So, what is the point of refusing to recognize Israel, when you know that anyway, you have to deal with the Israelis in your day-to-day very simple life, either to move from a city to another, or to work (how many Palestinians work in Israel?) or to get taxes (collected by the Israelis)?
They know that Israel, Europe, and the USA are allies and work together. They know that even the Arab States are committed to an international agreement about the peace process that has to be pursued further on. They know that without the consent of these three partners (USA, Europe, and Israel) and without a close collaboration with them, they will not have an independent State recognized by the UN and the international community. They know that one cannot claim to be in charge of the political affairs and refuse to play the game, assuming that policy is about compromise. They know what the Arab League advised them lately: “recognize Israel”. They know that they cannot make two steps inside or outside Gaza or the Western Bank without the consent of Israel. They know that they cannot make peace –” and in order to lead a government you have to get civil peace –” without acknowledging that Israel exists and is powerful, not only locally and regionally, but also internationally. And there is not apparently any way to change this fact right now.
So, what is the point of continuing to reject what is obvious? And if they are really unable to accept the truths of this time and cope with the issues at stake, why don’t they merely step down and stay away from power?