Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas victory & the limits of democracy

While generally we believe that a voting public beats a non-voting public, what happens when the public that is voting holds extremist views?

We're about to find out. The extremist anti-Jewis Hamas party has won the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament. Hamas members hold a fundamentalist Islamic belief that says that the Jews have no right to land in the Middle East (or much of anywhere else). It is Hamas operative policy to see that Israel ceases to exist.

Hamas is funded, at least in part, by Iran (though it denies such). Iran is jubilant over the victory.

Israel, which has pursued the folly of the so-called "Road Map to Peace" just about as far as there is road, is now wondering how it will deal with its new governmental neighbors.

President Bush says the U.S. will refuse to deal with Hamas until it formally acknowledges that Israel has a right to exist. His thoughts were echoed by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:
"Anyone who wants to govern the Palestinian people and do so with the support of the international community has got to be committed to a two-state solution," Rice said. "You can't have a peace process if you're not committed to the right of your partner to exist."
We hope their statements today are followed by actions, such as the defunding of the Palestinian Authority by American tax dollars. We also hope these strong declarations of common sense are not forgotten a couple of months down the road.

Frankly, this is just one more piece of the puzzle that is coming together to make it appear highly probable that the Middle East will erupt into some serious violence sooner rather than later. Iran and Hamas are allied, and that can't be good news for anyone dedicated to the cause of a just peace.

It would be nice to believe that democracy always led to more rational decisions by governments. A fully informed and thoughtful electorate, however, is required for this to be more likely. Any semblance of the Palestinian people to a thoughtful, informed electorate is purely coincidental.


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