Middle East Brief Comments

Comment by: Tom Carew
Regarding: Dror Ze’evi, “What Do Palestinians Really Want? The Social Implications of the Hamas Victory,” Middle East Brief 3, March 2006.

Dror Zeevi on “What the Palestinians expect” reminded me of the largely-ignored details of the election result.

The use of “landslide” re Hamas election, and the media coverage generally,  has totally distorted the Palestinian Election results. The votes show the exact opposite.

The Israeli-style “National Party List” form of PR gave 49.5% of votes, and 34 of 66 seats to the 4 secular parties, including the “3rd Way” of Anglican Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Literature Professor and former Higher Education Minister, and “Independent Palestine” of Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, an MD and strong opponent of Arab terror, along with leftist “The Alternative.”

“Fatah” itself got 28 seats, but Hamas got only 1 more, 29, in the National List. Fatah were only 3.02% and 29,855 votes behind Hamas in votes, but the 3 other secular democratic parties totalled 8.05% or 79,744 votes, giving the 4 secular parties a workable majority, if based on their actual electoral support.

The serious distortion in the share of seats alloted comes from the absense of PR in the other half of the 132 seats which were filled in 16 local constituencies. There Hamas got a major bonus and took 45 seats against only 17 for a divided Fatah, and none for the other parties. Could there be a better case for either our Irish or the Israeli-type PR system?

If EU, Israeli and USA leaders hold firm, and force the Hamas minority to either rely on exclusively peaceful means, or else face complete suspension of funding, then the real Palestinian secular 4-party majority will be in a strong position to put a realistic strategy to the electorate, perhaps under a strong and dynamic leader like Fatah’s Gaza  poll-topper, Mohammed Dahlan of Khan Younis constituency.

As Palestinians are, along with their Israeli and Jordanian neighbours, among the most literate [90%], and best educated people in the Middle East, they can together carve out a bright future, at long last, and eventually in EU-style collaboration with the whole Levant Region, if only the West now resists the easy temptation to appease the Hamas “suicide-belt plus ballot” strategy. Their enforced veiling of their women is not their only resemblance to the Taliban thugs to the East.

Arik Sharon at last faced down his “ultras,” like Ben Gurion did in the “Altalena” challenge in June, 1948, and like Ireland’s PM  Sean Lemass going to Northern Ireland’s Stormont Parliament, on 14 Jan 1965, or Irish PM Jack Lynch on 6 May, April, 1970 firing 2 Ministers, Blayney & Haughey, in the “Arms Trial” for suspicion of importing guns for the PIRA, or Irish WW II PM De Valera holding 1,100 IRA-Nazi collaborators in 1940-1946. The only hope for the Palestinians is a tough but imaginative new coalition, perhaps under Dahlan. They must now get ready to do likewise and assert the will of their non-Hamas majority. We in Ireland, North and South, also  have reason to know about the need [in Tony Blair’s phrase about crime] to be equally “tough on terror” and “on the causes of terror.”