Victory of Hamas: Not a Bad Thing After All

Things are not as bad as they look. Two things could happen and both are good.

Ali Sina,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
The victory of the Hamas, a group listed as terrorist by the United States, the European Union, Israel and pretty much everyone, except of course other rogue regimes such as the Iranian mullahs, has shocked the world. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted: "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing."

Meeting in London, the diplomatic Quartet on Middle East peace, consisting of the US, the EU, Russia and the United Nations, pledged to keep money flowing into Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's interim caretaker administration until Hamas forms its government in three months.

But the Quartet warned that the Palestinians' critical lifeline of foreign aid, which amounts to one billion dollars a year, could be lost unless Hamas abandons violence, recognises Israel, honors the agreements reached by the Palestinian Authority and embraces the diplomatic Road Map to Peace.

Hamas however called this "blackmail". A senior Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, appealed to the Quartet to meet the Hamas leaders for "a dialogue without preliminary conditions and in a spirit of neutrality".

Things seem to be reaching an impasse. It seems that the Road Map to Peace is now ashes in the wind. It would be ludicrous for the US and EU to enter into dialogue with an organization that considers terrorism a legitimate means of operation.

However, things are not as bad as they look. Two things could happen and both are good.

One is that the Hamas' leaders find a face-saving way to recognize Israel's right to exist and give up violence. This would be the ideal scenario, which many hope would happen. The advantage of this is that Hamas can deliver what its rival Fatah could not, and that is the guarantee that a ceasefire would be respected.

But the main advantage of Hamas as the government is that now the enemy has a real face. Now, the PA can be held responsible if the suicide missions in Israel continue and it can be punished accordingly. What gives the terrorists their power is their anonymity. Ironically, the terrorists are powerful because they are cowards. Their strength comes from the fact that they can hit and hide. Once they become the government, they can hide no more and lose their power.

Paradoxically, by winning, Hamas is weakened. A suicide attack in Israel will not be seen as an act of terrorism anymore, but as an act of war, which would leave Israel's hands free to strike militarily at any target in the Palestinian Authority. Hamas leaders are not stupid (at least not to this degree). They know the difference between operating a terrorist organization and an army. They can be successful as terrorists, but as an army, they will be squished in a matter of hours.

Would Hamas eventually recognize the right of Israel to exist? I would say yes. But I am not going to bet on it. After all, we are talking about Muslims and there is an element of obstinacy and unpredictability when you deal with them.

But let us be practical. If the money does not flow in from outside, how would the Hams pay the salaries of the policemen, the clerks, the teachers or the bus drivers? Hamas receives a lot of aid from other Islamists, with which they financed their soup kitchens, schools and hospitals. Those operations were intended to gain the loyalty and the vote of the people - a stratagem that obviously has worked. They learned this from their Iranian co-ideologists when they staged their revolution in 1979. The Islamic "charities" are for gaining the support of the masses and to enlist them in the Islamist cause. This is how they are operating in Pakistan, as well.

Now, running a government is entirely a different ball game. This is an expensive business. Where is the Hamas going to get the one billion dollars needed to pay the bills?

Iran is one possible source. But remember that the Iranian government is extremely unpopular among its own people. Despite the propaganda, the government is not elected by the people. The candidates were decided for them. The choices were between Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjai, a cleric cum business mogul, corrupt to his bone marrow and hated by everyone, and an unknown younger candidate without the clerical robe, of whom the Iranians knew nothing. So they voted for the unknown, hoping for the best. As it turned out, the unknown was even worse than the known. It is better to have a thief as the president than a lunatic religious nutcase, with messianic visions of world destruction.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was born to a very poor and low-class working family. This Mr. Nobody is suddenly the president of the country. Sudden power has made his head swell and now he really believes himself to be a divine instrument to bring the end of the world and hasten the advent of the "hidden Imam". This guy is crazy. He scares even the mullahs.

The Iranian government cannot come up with one billion dollars to replace what the Hamas would lose if the US, EU, and Japan cut their subsidies. They do not have even enough money to pay their bus drivers, who staged a strike after not being paid for months. All they got was beating and jail.

Can the Islamic regime of Iran funnel one billion dollars to the Hamas's account when it can't pay the wages of its own employees? The Iranians need every dime they get from the sale of oil to build their atomic bomb and it is unlikely that they can afford this much money to pay to Hamas. Also, if that happens, what would be the reaction of the Iranians who are already restless and at the brink of explosion?

Other sources exist. They are mostly private Muslim donors. But these private donors are already paying what they can. It is unlikely that they can raise an additional one billion dollars every year.

We must also understand a thing or two about the Muslim mind. A Muslim will happily pay to Islamic "charities" as long as he knows that his donation would be used in the cause of jihad, where the reward is most copious. He will most likely not be too keen to pay the salaries of the policemen, the office workers or the bus drivers. As long as Hamas was waging jihad, they were happy and the money kept coming. If the killings stop, the money will stop, too.

There is nothing special about being a Palestinian. They became the darling of the Islamic world because they were killing the Jews. Once that stops, they fall from grace. After all, Muslims are a dime a dozen and most of them are even poorer than the Palestinians. Thousands of them could die in starvation and no Muslim would give a hoot.

As you see, things are not as bad as they look. Hamas has no choice but to recognize Israel and renounce violence. If they don't, they will starve and will be removed by those who voted for them. If they continue with terrorism, it is much easier to find them and destroy them now that they are the government.

So, in my opinion the Israelis can go out shopping, ride on the busses and eat out in the restaurants, husband and wife together, with less worry about suicide bombings.

To the members of the Quartet, my humble suggestion is please go home and do nothing. You already made clear your terms: recognize Israel's right to exist, abandon violence and we will recognize you as a legitimate government and keep paying your bills. They heard it. There is nothing else to talk about. Now the ball is in their court. Let them mull it over and wait for their response. My hunch is that they will do the right thing in the end. They have cornered themselves. They are the ones who should worry, not you.

Terrorists have turned politicians before and it could happen again. All we have to do is remember the Nobel Prize winner Yasser Arafat. Yep, miracles can happen! Errr.... Or is it that this world is really a funny place?

However, we should not think we are out of the woods yet. If the leaders of Hamas choose to become "honorable" government officials and instead of terrorism, play the game of diplomacy and realpolitik, there is no guarantee that another group would not rise from beneath the rocks, denouncing the Hamas as traitors and proclaim itself as the true fighters for the Palestinians.

When an entire generation is raised on hatred, it is not easy for them to give up violence overnight.