- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

In “Fundamentalist Populism Run Amok,” (Op-Ed, Feb. 1) Helle Dale is far too alarmist about the Palestinian Elections, provided the international community can ensure the next round of parliamentary elections are held as scheduled.

Democracy does not always result in the leaders we want, as 46 percent of our own electorate will attest. With foreign elections, one may just have to wait until voters elect a government that is more amenable to collaboration, as in the recent elections in Canada and Germany.

Hamas will be forced to renounce its pledge to eradicate Israel, which is all the PLO/Fatah ever did or face drastically reduced foreign aid that will make it difficult to deliver on infrastructure and well-being programs now expected by the electorate.

If Hamas delivers, it will largely be because the political process will change them. If they remain intransigent, they will likely be shown the door. The key is that the international community accepts the democratic outcome, and remains vigilant to ensure there will be future democratic outcomes.

This is not to say a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) should be welcomed into the world of democracies and accepted without reservation. The U.S. has established a strong and proper response, demanding Hamas recognize Israel, make a commitment to nonviolence and adhere to previous agreements and obligations, and the European Union and other allies have largely stood with us.

Once Hamas has demonstrated a period of commitment to these principals, perhaps 90 days, the aid spigot should be turned back on. To do otherwise would be hypocritical, as aid was always given to the Arafat-Abbas-Fatah-led PA after it recognized Israel and renounced violence, while supporting quite the opposite tack. Should Hamas prove unwilling or unable to stem the violence, they can be left to fend for themselves, developing their own track record for the next elections.

Algeria’s military nullified their only democratic elections because Islamic fundamentalists won, and they have had a popularly supported insurgency since. Egypt has avoided free and fair elections because they fear the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely triumph. That fundamentalist group increases in popularity as a result. The Taliban rose to Afghan prominence with the assent of the Mujahideen and the people, until the reality hit and it was too late to reverse course.

In Palestine, it is possible for Hamas to rule, and, given the international community’s vastly greater influence there, ensure the next round of parliamentary elections is a referendum on fundamentalist rule. The majority of Iran’s youth chafes at the restrictions imposed by the mullahs with little recourse. But the voters of Palestine can mount a democratic revolution.

Elsewhere in the same issue of The Washington Times, Joshua Mitnick reported on one telling election day loss for Hamas. Eight months ago, in the West Bank town of Qalqilya, Hamas candidates swept all 15 seats in municipal council elections, promising new schools and hospitals. Since then however, voter disappointment with Hamas’ failures resulted in Fatah winning the area’s two parliamentary seats.

Hamas is no longer the opposition. As has often been seen in the past, the voters have given them a mandate for a new approach. But they may have very little time to show tangible results. The great Nelson Mandela and the ANC had a hard time initially facing very high expectations for post-Apartheid rule, and many Eastern-European nations have vacillated between reformers and former communists.

Democracy is a system that often takes time to develop, but it is generally strengthened by its trials. It must be allowed to run its course. Governance will now be the true test of Hamas.


Ashburn, Va.

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