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The US congress message push Palestinians back to the military track
Integrating Hamas into the political mainstream will contribute in deescalating the cycle of violence - On the surface of it, the  resolution of the US congress and the statements of Javier Solana of the EU threatening to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if it allows the Islamic movement “Hamas” to participate in the upcoming legislative elections seems in tune with the wes
Friday, December 23,2005 00:00
by By: Daoud Kuttab, Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds

Integrating Hamas into the political mainstream will contribute in deescalating the cycle of violence

- On the surface of it, the  resolution of the US congress and the statements of Javier Solana of the EU threatening to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if it allows the Islamic movement “Hamas” to participate in the upcoming legislative elections seems in tune with the west’s anti terror policy. But the fact is that the resolution demands of Palestinians more than what the Israeli government the EU and the US administrations have demanded. Congress and Solana have missed the ball and have clearly taken sides in this conflict.

It sounds logical that organizations which are declared ’terrorists’ by the US State Department should not get American tax payers money, but the situation here is different.

For years Palestinians and the international community have been encouraging Palestinian militants to seek the civilian route as a way of demanding an end to the Israeli occupation. Veteran Israeli leader Shimon Peres repeatedly called on Palestinians to use the ballot instead of the bullet. And suddenly when this argument seems to be heeded by Palestinians, the message from the US congress seems to be pushing Palestinians back to the military track.

There is no doubt that the infant Palestinian democracy needs to find solutions to some of its internal contradictions. The contention of US Florida congressman Fredrick Meek about the multiplicity of arms has some logic to it.  The co sponsor of the resolution said in a statement "A Palestinian government that includes an armed Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority, threatens the future of the peace process and only emboldens terrorists.” But while this issue is of importance, Palestinian leaders find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

The continued presence of the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian West Bank and the many unresolved issues regarding the Palestinian population in Gaza mean that the issue of resistance is not an internal issue but an external one. The failure of the international community, including the US, to end the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and to reach a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a key part of the discussion among Palestinians.

In line with the Bush Administration’s push for democracy in the greater Middle East region, Washington has quietly agreed not to interfere with any of the Middle East elections. In Egypt, Lebanon and in Iraq, the US has encouraged all to join the participatory electoral process. Muslim Brothers sympathizers in Egypt, Lebanese Hizbullah members and Iraqi Sunni and Shiite militants participated in the elections. In Lebanon and Iraq the members of so called terrorists organizations have or will soon participate in ruling governments. Why should Hamas, which follows the same ideology as the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood be treated differently.

When Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the White House in the fall, a tacit American-Israeli agreement was reached not to veto any participants in the upcoming elections. Subsequent to that meeting, Israeli officials, who had earlier threatened to obstruct the holding of the elections retracted. Following is how the BBC covered this issue. "Israel has pulled back from a policy opposing the participation of Hamas in January’s Palestinian elections. Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said it was not in Israel’s interest to oppose Hamas’ participation."

Palestinians are in dire need of financial support from the US, from Arabs and from the international community. The collective punishment and closure policy of the Israeli occupation forces has resulted in a depressing economic situation. But for Palestinians, as bad as the economic situation is, the need to preserve national unity is even more important. The participation of Islamic groups in the upcoming legislative elections is a major victory for the moderation of President Mahmoud Abbas. Once Islamic supporters see that they can participate in the Palestinian decision making process, they will gradually give up on their unilateral actions against the Israelis. If there is collective Palestinian agreement on the need to end the Israeli occupation, then there is a need to be united in both the strategy and tactics of ending this occupation.

Integrating Hamas and the other militant movements into the political mainstream will contribute in deescalating the current cycle of violence and allow Palestinians to focus on rebuilding their lives in the recently liberated Gaza strip and the yet to be liberated Jerusalem and the West Bank. But away from the blackmailing efforts of the US congress, Palestinians must find a way to make sure those militant groups whether they have Islamic or nationalist tendencies should not be allowed to disturb the rule of law in the Palestinian areas.

As they did in Iraq, the international community, including the US administration and the EU should encourage all Palestinians to participate in the upcoming elections and to channel themselves through negotiations. For their part the EU and members of the US congress who have poured billions of dollars to support Israel militarily and developmentally must not seek domestic political gains and favoritism by using the tiny amounts of money earmarked for Palestine in a manner that neither the US administration, the EU nor the current Israeli government has done.

* Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian columnist and the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah.

 


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