Politics Tainted by Terrorism
On Dec. 23, 2004, in the first Palestinian local elections since 1976, the Islamic terrorist group Hamas won a considerable portion of the vote—35.6 percent—making “an impressive entrance onto the political scene” (Stratfor, Dec. 28, 2004). The support for Hamas was enough to undermine the confidence of the popular Fatah faction, which the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is a member of.
Though Hamas did not participate in the January presidential elections—perhaps because it knew it would lose and didn’t want to sacrifice its popular image—it plans to take part in legislative elections slated for July. Hamas is aware that, based on its performance in the municipal vote, “it has enough clout to emerge in [these] elections as a significant player in Palestinian politics” (ibid., January 14).
Clearly, Hamas is attempting to gain political legitimacy—and succeeding—while at the same time it continues its campaign of terror attacks against Israel. Indeed, just two days before Abbas was sworn in on January 15, a Hamas attack killed six Israelis.
Hamas’s stated aim is to destroy Israel. In a rally last December, its leader denounced the “road map for peace” plan. The same month, the group staged an anti-Israeli demonstration at which its supporters burned models of an Israeli tank and a group of houses representing a Jewish settlement. Its leader rejected calls to give up violence against the Israelis.
At the heart of Hamas’s popularity is its Islamist message, which is supported by a major and growing portion of Palestinians. The terrorist group has undertaken significant social programs for impoverished Palestinians to improve their lot and buy their sympathy. The same methods were used by Hezbollah to gain political legitimacy and seats in the Lebanese Parliament. “Like Hezbollah, Hamas’s instrumental objective is to establish a sovereign Islamic state through a democratic process, and win its struggle against the Israelis … through any means necessary—armed or otherwise” (op. cit.; emphasis ours).
The popularity of Hamas was clearly of concern for the so-called moderate Abbas in the run-up to the January 9 elections. Abbas wooed hard-line militants by making appearances with terrorist leaders—even being carried on the shoulders of a terrorist wanted for organizing suicide attacks against Israel—and promising not to use force against Hamas or forcefully disarm any of the terrorist groups.
Newsday (New York) reported that the Palestinian Authority’s leadership “knows it cannot punish militants for violent acts supported by many Palestinians …. These leaders have signaled that controlling militants [read terrorists] will mean absorbing them as officers in an internationally sanctioned Palestinian security force, and co-opting their leaders by welcoming them into Palestinian government” (Dec. 16, 2004).
What it amounts to is that, as a result of the popularity of militant Islam and its goal to destroy Israel, terrorists are increasingly being absorbed into the Palestinian political system. To think they will “reform” their ways is incredibly naive, given the history of Palestinian politics.
It is yet to be seen how much political power Hamas will gain, but given the growing Islamist support base—not to mention Bible prophecy—an Islamist takeover of what is currently a secular Palestinian leadership is sure to occur. As the article above explains, Iran is infiltrating the entire Palestinian political spectrum. Directly and through Hezbollah, this Islamic power is attempting to get a foothold in the Holy Land. With Hamas growing in popularity at the same time it is “falling into Hezbollah’s orbit,” Iran is gaining ground (Weekly Standard, Dec. 13, 2004).