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August 31, 2016 3:32 pm

Former US Official: Striking Similarity Between Upcoming Palestinian Elections and Hamas Landslide in 2006

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Hamas Prime Minister Ismayil Haniyeh (left) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.

The upcoming Palestinian municipal elections in Gaza and the West Bank bear a “striking” resemblance to the Palestinian parliamentary elections held a decade ago, a former senior White House official wrote on Monday.

The most fundamental similarity, claimed Elliott Abrams — senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush — is that, as in 2006, Hamas is being allowed to run “without the slightest nod to stopping its terror or giving up its rule of Gaza.”

This, he wrote in his blog Pressure Points, “is wrong for many reasons” and argued that those who wish to participate in elections “should be forced to choose between bullets and ballots.”

Abrams then compared the phenomenon to the Northern Ireland agreements, according to which the IRA had to end its guerrilla war against the British before being allowed to run for office. “It is a mistake with global implications to allow terrorist groups to have it all: to run for office like peaceful parties, but continue their violent activities,” he wrote. “That was the mistake we made in 2006, and it is being repeated.”

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However, he added, there is a “powerful argument” for the elections going ahead on October 8 as scheduled:

There have been no parliamentary or presidential elections in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006, and these elections provide at least a taste of democracy. They will tell us a good deal about Palestinian public opinion. And perhaps in some cases they will produce better, meaning more responsive and competent, municipal governments. But perhaps their clearest achievement will be to show that nothing has changed since 2006 and indeed for decades more: Fatah and Hamas are implacably at odds, Palestinians are split, the Palestinian “national” government and national movement are hopelessly divided, Hamas’s brand of rejectionism and terror remains widely popular, and a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is nowhere in sight.

As for his assessment of the outcome — whether Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, based in Ramallah, or its Gaza-based rival Hamas, will emerge victorious — Abrams said:

The unpopularity of the Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah Party due to corruption, incompetence, and growing repression helps explain why West Bank voters might choose Hamas. In other cases voters may prefer Hamas’s Islamism to Fatah’s brand of secularism — or may prefer Hamas’s manifest desire to kill Israelis over Fatah’s and the PA’s tamer stance.

Indeed, quipped, Abrams, it is “deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra is said to have said. In the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, most of these same conditions existed and the result was a narrow Hamas victory in the popular vote (44 to 41 percent) that produced a much larger Hamas majority in parliament (74 to 45).”

The one thing that has changed since then, he concluded, is that “Abbas is 10 years older, and his time in office is closer to its end. Until succession issues are dealt with, the notion of serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is completely unrealistic — whatever happens at the United Nations, whatever the French suggest or the Russians try, and whatever the Obama administration or its successor believe.”

As The Algemeiner reported on Tuesday, Israeli expert in Arab affairs Pinhas Inbari warned that the PA is disintegrating, with “every province…going its own way, and Ramallah…losing its control over the entire West Bank.”

In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on January 25, 2006, Hamas won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, garnering 74 out of 132 seats, ending Fatah’s control of the council. The Hamas victory, which ended up resulting in the stranglehold that the terrorist group has on Gaza to this day, took Israel, which had withdrawn completely from the Strip mere months beforehand, by surprise.

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