The National (Editorial)
October 29, 2009 - 12:00am

The game of one-upmanship between Hamas and Fatah grows increasingly tiresome, and the latest row over elections in January is especially so. Hamas has responded to Fatah’s election call by banning them in Gaza. But in doing so, Hamas risks not only alienating itself abroad but lowering its stature even further in the eyes of the Palestinians.

The rivals are so determined to have dominance over the Palestinians’ future that they often argue more among themselves than they do with their purported common adversary, Israel. But in the latest quarrel over the election, it is difficult to fault anyone but Hamas: their objections and excuses for not signing a unity agreement and joining the Palestinian Liberation Organisation sound increasingly hollow.

Regardless of whether or not Mahmoud Abbas had the right to extend his term, and even if the expulsion of Hamas from the unity government in 2007 was illegitimate, the elections must be held. The Palestinian Basic Law, which governs the Palestinian Authority (PA), is a thin piece of legislation, but it is binding on Hamas if it wishes to be considered a candidate for government. The law says that an election must be held, and short of denying the legitimacy of the document, and by extension the PA, it must participate or stand aside.

The reaction of the Hamas leadership was predictable: by all obvious measures, Gaza has not prospered under Hamas rule. But it is difficult to understand what they believe they will accomplish with this intransigence. The political leadership fears a backlash in the polls, but it stands to gain nothing by sitting out of the electoral process as it did in 1996. If separate elections were to be held, which is what Hamas currently claims will happen, then the world would pay even less attention to anything they say.

More than anything, Hamas craves legitimacy, which is why it fears the potential irrelevance that a loss in the polls could bring. But it has already made itself irrelevant. Despite its bluster about the impending defeat of Israel, it is powerless to shape the debate through any means other than fear, violence and intimidation. Its inability to govern effectively outside the framework of international agreements has been exposed.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017