WASHINGTON, D.C.–Hamas’s stunning victory in the Palestinian elections represents not just another setback in American foreign policy, but a real debacle. Ever since Khomeini took power in Iran, the U.S. and many of the Western nations have feared the creation of a militant Muslim presence stretching from Iran across the Middle East.
With Hamas’s democratic victory yesterday, the people of Palestine have spoken, and what they want is George Bush’s nightmare.
As things now stand, Iran remains under Shiite control. The recent elections in Iraq have resulted in a Shiite-dominated central government there. (That government is almost sure to shrivel as the country breaks into three parts–the southernmost is Shiite, and has control over important oil reserves.) With Hamas in power in the Palestinian territory, there is yet another militant Muslim group with a grip on the wheel of state.
Despite assertions to the contrary by the Bush administration, al Qaeda appears to have grown and spread its operations. The Taliban is once more active in Afghanistan. Where bin Laden was at loggerheads with Saddam Hussein before the war, now al Qaeda has inserted itself into Iraq where it operates with apparently considerable freedom.
All this is coming at a time when reports are showing the American military strained to the breaking point–as if that outcome should have been at all unexpected.
Hamas is widely condemned here and by the European Union as a terrorist group. Israel will not work with it. However, a spokesman for the European Union told the BBC this morning that it would recognize and work with a peaceful elected victor, whatever its politics.
President Bush told the Wall Street Journal in an interview earlier this week, “A political party, in order to be viable, is one that professes peace, in my judgment, in order that it will keep the peace. And so you’re getting a sense of how I’m going to deal with Hamas if they end up in positions of responsibility. And the answer is: Not until you renounce your desire to destroy Israel will we deal with you.”
Hamas says it will work with Fatah, the party that had been in control, but Fatah refused. Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official, told Reuters: “Fatah rejects participating in a government formed by Hamas. Hamas has to take up its responsibilities. Fatah will act as a responsible opposition.”
Another Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, warned that Hamas would not hold peace talks with Israel, the BBC reported this morning. “Negotiations with Israel is not on our agenda,” he said. “Recognizing Israel is not on the agenda either now.”