Former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice: It Was a ‘Mistake’ to Let Hamas Run in Palestinian Elections Before Disarming
Permitting Hamas to run in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections without the terrorist organization disarming first was “a mistake,” former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged this week.
In a wide-ranging interview with Politico that was published on Monday, Rice — who led the State Department during ex-President George W. Bush’s second term in office — said she had “undiminished faith” in the importance of elections, but added, “the question is, can you improve the context in which they happen?”
Rice continued: “I think one mistake we made with Hamas was we really should have said they had to disarm if they were going to participate in the elections, along the lines of what was done in Northern Ireland, for instance.”
In the January 2006 vote held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Hamas soundly defeated rival Fatah, winning a clear majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. A year later, Hamas violently ousted Fatah (which controls the Ramallah-headquartered Palestinian Authority) from Gaza, causing an intra-Palestinian divide that remains in place today.
Expanding her analysis to the wider Middle East, Rice noted: “Don’t let armed militias participate in elections because they have a, shall we say, unfair advantage. It would be true, for instance, of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But a more important one is that yes, if you have elections and the only organized forces are Islamists, radical Islamists, then you’re going to get a bad outcome.”
Rice observed that the authoritarian Arab regimes that started to totter in 2011 had not enabled liberal political forces to emerge. “When [Hosni] Mubarak would say to me, ‘I’m all’ — he would say me, Mubarak, ‘All that is standing between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt,’ I would think, ‘Yes, because you made it that way,'” she remarked.
“So I think we make a false choice when we say, ‘If you have an election, the Islamists are going to win,'” Rice went on to say, “Well, yes, if you disable all other forces.”
Rice also offered a stalwart defense of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. “I would rather be Iraqi than Syrian today,” she said. “You can posit that it was better for the Iraqis to continue under a dictator who was putting 300,000 people in mass graves if you want to make that case. I don’t want to make that case and when people say, ‘Well, Iraq is such a disaster;’ I want them to explain to me why they think that under Saddam Hussein it was a bucolic, benign dictatorship.”