The Price of Ignoring Palestinians' Needs

(International Herald Tribune) Natan Sharansky - * Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections is the logical outcome of a "peace process" more than a decade long that completely ignored what was happening within Palestinian society. * Rather than seriously link the peace process to the building of a free society among the Palestinians, the democratic world, including Israel, turned a blind eye as Palestinian civil society was hollowed out, its streets taken over by armed thugs, and its youth indoctrinated to glorify suicide bombers and despise Israel and America, Jews and Christians. * International legitimacy, Israeli concessions, and billions of dollars in aid were used to strengthen Arafat and Abbas' Palestinian Authority - the "moderates" who had ostensibly renounced violence and accepted Israel's existence - and marginalize extremist groups like Hamas. * This failed approach to peacemaking amounted to nothing more than supporting a corrupt dictatorship. The world believed that seriously pressing Palestinian leaders to enact real reform would only weaken the PA internally and strengthen Hamas. The truth is precisely the opposite. By failing to insist that the PA dedicate itself to improving the lives of Palestinians, the U.S., Israel, the EU, and other players in the peace process made themselves contemptible in the eyes of Palestinians who saw their lives only getting worse. * To the outside world, the Palestinians have now chosen the party of terror over the party of peace. But in the eyes of most Palestinians, the differences between Hamas and the "moderate" Fatah were not primarily in their views toward Israel. The real difference for the Palestinians was that a Fatah-run PA was rightly seen as a corrupt organization that had done and would continue to do nothing to improve Palestinian lives, whereas Hamas was untainted by corruption and appreciated for providing real social services. With the vote being a choice between corrupt terrorists dedicated only to themselves and honest terrorists who are also dedicated to others, is it any surprise that Hamas won by a landslide? * Now that the PA's corrupt dictatorship has collapsed and a terror organization riding a wave of resentment with the status quo is assuming power, the free world has an opportunity to restore moral clarity to the peace process. The world must base their support for this new regime on two ironclad conditions. First, Hamas must explicitly abandon the goal of destroying Israel and renounce terrorism. Second, it must dedicate itself toward building a free society for the Palestinians. * If the new Palestinian regime does not abide by these conditions, the free world, including Israel, must actively confront it and withhold legitimacy, money, and concessions. But we must also seek ways to support any Palestinian individuals and organizations that do abide by these conditions. There are countless Palestinians who want a better future, and we must seek every way to work with them.

2006-02-03 00:00:00

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