by Noah Pollak
That is the oft-repeated formulation that describes the problem with the participation of Islamist and terrorist groups in elections. They pretend to be committed to democratic politics so long as democratic politics provide a vehicle for them to take power. But the moment elections no longer favor them, they no longer favor elections.
Many have been wondering where Hamas would come down on this question since the group's rise to power was given democratic legitimacy in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. It appears that we have an answer. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA and the leader of Fatah, has announced that he will schedule presidential and legislative elections for January 24th, 2010. Hamas's reaction?
Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official in
Hamas's Syrian leadership added:
"Mahmoud Abbas cannot hold elections only in the
So Hamas will not participate in elections, and will in fact attempt to undermine and delegitimize them. This is unsurprising to most observers of Islamist politics. But then, there are legions of westerners who counsel
One can't marginalize
The obvious question is: If Hamas will neither participate in elections nor temper its ambitions, how do we bring it "inside the tent"? The engagers are being either lazy or dishonest when they take as their unspoken premise that Hamas itself desires to come into the tent. What if Hamas cares more about maintaining its ideological purity and guarding its
It is precisely the fear of becoming entangled in a system that it cannot dominate — i.e., elections or a national-unity government — that provokes Hamas's rejectionism. As David Makovsky notes,
Surveys conducted by the
The lesson here is obvious, but alas too simple for sophisticates like Levy: Hamas will not participate in elections. It will not compromise on any of its positions in order to join a national-unity government with Fatah. It will not participate in a peace process or agree to any previous Palestinian agreements. Why would it do any of these things — why would it come into "the tent" — when doing so would require the group to surrender its one great accomplishment: its control over
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