Forcing Choices

Haim Malka

Regardless of what happens in future Palestinian parliamentaryelections, Hamas has already won a historic victory. The organization, whosename is an acronym for “the Islamic Resistance Movement,” enjoyed tremendoussuccess in municipal elections, and its readiness to participate onthe national level constitutes nothing less than an earthquake in Palestinianpolitics, signaling the clear end of one-party rule. For a movement that hasmorphed from a militant organization into a political party in less than a generation,Hamas’s participation on the national level is evidence of theorganization’s adaptability and durability within Palestinian society and politics.Among the United States, Israel, and Europe, as well as Arab governments,speculation and uneasiness has surrounded Hamas’s newfound role.Skeptics argue that electoral politics do not make one democratic, and thatHamas’s electoral ambitions mask the group’s true intention of establishingan Islamic state in all of historic Palestine—a goal that includes Israel’s destruction.1 These critics believe that, once Hamas has secured its positionwithin the Palestinian Authority (PA) and institutions of the Palestine LiberationOrganization (PLO), the movement will resume its campaign of terrorand attempt to control the Palestinian national agenda by force.Despite the inherent risks, proponents of expanding Hamas’s role in Palestiniannational politics argue that political activity will ultimately moderatethe movement. These advocates point to the fact that Hamas’s leadershave long called for transparent and accountable governing institutions andhave demonstrated political pragmatism, suggesting that the group could acceptless than its absolutist demands.

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