Friday, January 27, 2006
Democracy: Is it really all that great?
Hands up, who's big idea was it to insist on free Palestinian elections as part of the “road map to peace”? That fairly backfired on ye, now didn’t it? Who knew the Palestinians would choose wrongly and put a party committed to violence and the destruction of Israel into power? Oh I hear the excuses: “But militant Islamics have never come to power via democratic elections considered free and fair by international observers before!” Well, was it not obvious that the only law observed in the Middle East is Murphy's Law? Jesus, look at Iraq. If something can go wrong it will. Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections has thrown a fairly sizeable spanner into the works for all manner of reasons. Israel is gearing herself up for a crucial set of elections in March. Much will depend on what happens between now and then, but it will be very interesting to see how the Israeli electorate react to Hamas’ victory as they choose between the moderates and hardliners in finding a new leader and new direction post-Sharon. Hamas themselves probably didn’t even want this, as they would have preferred to have constituted a sizeable proportion of a Fatah led government. According to the BBC, Hamas are likely to consult Fatah and other groups with a view of forming a political partnership. However, Abbas has said before that he would resign if unable to work towards a peaceful resolution with Israel, so the likelihood of such a partnership, is questionable. Israel and the West could be forced to do business with Hamas without the moderating influence of Fatah. World leaders have already stated they will not deal with Hamas before it has renounced violence and its quest to destroy Israel. Would Hamas ever be seen to do this when under pressure from Israel? How has the IRA reacted to pressure from Britain and Unionism over the years? And what will happen if Hamas refuses to renounce its ideology and goals? As for Bush its a definite case of "Be careful what you wish for". It was his idea to hold Palestinian elections as early as possible, so great was his faith in the democratic process. The only silver-lining is that Hamas' victory was not won on a platform of terrorism and violence. Instead they concentrated on social issues and down played the conflict with Israel. They were also helped greatly by the corruption in Fatah. This is good news for two reasons. Firstly, Hamas' victory does not mark a definite shift to violence amongst ordinary Palestinians. Secondly, it shows that social issues, rather than just the conflict with Israel, concern the ordinary Palestinian. This may force Hamas to play ball with Israel and the West. Palestine wants an end to this thing as much as anybody, and the destruction of a U.S backed Israel simply isn’t going to happen. Similarly in the Israel and the West, ordinary people will quickly grow tired of any stalemate or indeed an escalation in violence. A poll conducted by CBS News found that 48% of Israelis believe Israel should talk with a government lead by Hamas (43% were against). The will of the people could force both sides to find a solution, but time and events will tell. This result, along with the trouble in Iraq, could be seen as the inevitable teething problems of Middle Eastern democracy. One exercise in democracy has just put the Israeli-Palestinian situation into a very sticky situation. When Israel does likewise in March the problems may be compounded even further. That’s democracy for you, warts and all, sometimes you don’t get the result that you want. I'm not going to become Supreme Ruler of Planet Earth any time soon, so Democracy still represents the best form of Government we have got. Whilst it has complicated things in Palestine, if the average person on each side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide wants this situation resolved, surely it still remains a vital cog in finding a solution to the problem.