1
   

What if Hamas wins?

 
 
Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 06:48 am
my paper the Sun says

'Ditch your guns...or be shunned'

I assume this is a warning to Mr Bush from the new Hamas government in Palestine.
0 Replies
 
revel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 08:40 am
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
revel wrote:
This spreading of Democracy don't seem to be going the way I imagine it was intended.


And how do you think it was intended revel?

There's only one way to read a comment like this: Belittling of the strategy to spread democracy.

How anyone can oppose such a strategy is beyond me -- unless of course if it is a political knee-jerk reaction: Republicans/Neo-Cons have made spreading democracy a foreign policy, therefore anyone who is not happy about Republicans/Neo-Cons must sneer at the policy.

Democrats/Liberal take up the spread democracy banner and watch how fast revel is all over it.


I think any reasonable person can guess how it was intended to go. I seriously doubt they felt that spreading democracy would have the effect of spreading fundamentalist Islam. . I truly think they were so arrogant they felt that surely all those Muslims in those countries would want to free from Islamic rules. It appears they were wrong.

Personally I think democracy can be spread by example rather than force. It is one thing to go a country and peaceably try to encourage democracy and it is another thing entirely to force it by having unjustified wars. I think the Iraq war had the opposite effect of controlling fundamentalist Islam despite the fact that it did seem to open the doors for democracy. They are just electing the more religious fundamentalist into leadership positions through democracy.

Also I think people in their own countries should be able to elect who they see fit, if they want fundamentalist in leadership positions in their government, then that is their choice. Hopefully, it won't ever happen in our country. I don't think it will because of the way our constitution is set up; and also because I don't think the majority of Americans truly want a country run on religious grounds completely. Hopefully.
0 Replies
 
revel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 11:37 am
Quote:
WASHINGTON - The way ahead appears bumpy and uncertain, but the Bush administration will resume its search for a formula to bring peace to the Middle East following the jolting triumph of Hamas in Palestinian parliamentary elections.

One potential step is already clear - both President Bush and members of Congress may consider halting the millions of dollars in aid the U.S. has been sending the Palestinians annually in recent years.

The toughest task facing the United States is determining whether the peace process can proceed, and if so, how. The Bush administration, which has a policy of not dealing with terrorist organizations, would have to find a way to negotiate with the Palestinians without talking directly to Hamas.



source
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Jan, 2006 11:04 pm
revel wrote:
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
revel wrote:
This spreading of Democracy don't seem to be going the way I imagine it was intended.


And how do you think it was intended revel?

There's only one way to read a comment like this: Belittling of the strategy to spread democracy.

How anyone can oppose such a strategy is beyond me -- unless of course if it is a political knee-jerk reaction: Republicans/Neo-Cons have made spreading democracy a foreign policy, therefore anyone who is not happy about Republicans/Neo-Cons must sneer at the policy.

Democrats/Liberal take up the spread democracy banner and watch how fast revel is all over it.


I think any reasonable person can guess how it was intended to go. I seriously doubt they felt that spreading democracy would have the effect of spreading fundamentalist Islam. . I truly think they were so arrogant they felt that surely all those Muslims in those countries would want to free from Islamic rules. It appears they were wrong.

Personally I think democracy can be spread by example rather than force. It is one thing to go a country and peaceably try to encourage democracy and it is another thing entirely to force it by having unjustified wars. I think the Iraq war had the opposite effect of controlling fundamentalist Islam despite the fact that it did seem to open the doors for democracy. They are just electing the more religious fundamentalist into leadership positions through democracy.

Also I think people in their own countries should be able to elect who they see fit, if they want fundamentalist in leadership positions in their government, then that is their choice. Hopefully, it won't ever happen in our country. I don't think it will because of the way our constitution is set up; and also because I don't think the majority of Americans truly want a country run on religious grounds completely. Hopefully.


Deny that your original comment was, at least, sarcastic. Please.

Beyond that point, it has no intellectual relevance.

Anyone that might argue that Hamas is a legitimate-geo-political force has jettisoned their appreciation for, at the minimum, Human Rights.
0 Replies
 
revel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 06:59 am
Actually, if I am not mistaken one of the reasons why Hamas was successful was because of all their social services as opposed to the Fatah party who they feel has been corrupted and has taken the money that was meant for all Palestinians into their own hands.

But yes, it was meant to be sarcastic.
0 Replies
 
revel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 07:35 am
What Bush had to say about Hamas winning in the election.

Quote:
President Bush accepted the stunning election results in the Palestinian territories yesterday with a conciliatory tone, saying the landslide victory of the militant Islamic group Hamas was rejection of the "status quo" and a repudiation of the "old guard" that had failed to provide honest government and services.

"There's something healthy about a system that does that," Bush said at a news conference. He reiterated that he will not work with Hamas, formally known at the Islamic Resistance Movement, as a "partner of peace" until it renounces its goal of destroying Israel and disarms its militias. But he left unsaid what a Hamas-led government will mean for the distribution of U.S. financial assistance and for American involvement in trying to reach a peace deal.


source

So it appears that Bush is throwing the ball in Hamas's court to see if it will renounce it's stance on Israel and disband it's militias. I don't know about it's stance on Israel but I think they are already putting their militia into Palestine Army.

Quote:
Jan 28, 2006 - DAMASCUS (Reuters) - The Islamic militant group Hamas was ready to merge armed factions including its military wing to form an army to defend the Palestinian people, a senior Hamas leader said on Saturday.

"We are willing to form an army like every country … an army to defend our people against aggression," Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal told a news conference in Damascus after the group swept Palestinian parliamentary elections.


source
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 11:35 am
Surprise, Surprise!
I was surprised that so many so-called intelligent people were surprised that Hamas won. Anyone who knew anything about the Palestinians and their circumstances expected Hamas to win. My hope is that Hamas can evolve from a partially terrorist organization (it is two, one for providing Palestinian services and the other is anti-Israel terrorism) to an effective political leadership organization that will improve the lives of Palestinians and create economic viability to suport more democratic institutions and opportunities. Their greatest challenge will be to avoid falling into the corruption trap that caused Fatah to fail it's people. ---BBB

Surprise, Surprise!
by Nicholas von Hoffman
01.27.2006

The surprise in the Palestinian election is that anyone is surprised. Apparently the returns were a real shocker in Washington and Davos, Switzerland, where hundreds of the world's richest and most powerful were meeting for their annual ego rubs.

Washington had put money into the Palestinian Bantustans before the election to insure the re-election of Yasir Arafat's old party, Fatah.

Either President Bush did not put enough money in to buy enough votes or the Palestinians double-crossed him. It is just like a Muhammadan to take a man's money and then vote the wrong way. If more proof were needed that Arabs have a long way to go toward learning how Democracy works, that was it.

After the returns had come in and stunned the world a puzzled Rev. Bush was heard to say, "If there is corruption, I'm not surprised that people say, let's get rid of corruption. If government hadn't been responsive, I'm not the least bit surprised that people said, 'I want government to be responsive.'"

Huh?

Has anyone heard anything coming out of the God forsaken territory they are penned up in suggesting that, Arabs though they may be, they are content with their helpless squalor? The surprise is that any of them voted for Fatah. Maybe it goes to show that if you bribe some Arabs, they stay bribed.

Now Hamas, the terrorist group, is elected and there is a mass freak out because the organization's charter fails to recognize Israel's right to exist. What difference does that make in the real world? So what if Hamas wants to obliterate Israel? How is Hamas going to make Israel go away? Who has the atom bombs here? Who has the air force? Who has the tanks? This is a classic case of sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

If the reports are accurate, every few months or so Hamas succeeds in getting a suicide bomber into Israel to blow up a bus (with people in it) or an ice cream parlor (with other people in it), thereby killing and maiming many non-combatants. After each such act, the Palestinians do their bloody jihad routine about how glad they are to have murdered little kids, etc. This boasting and drinking of blood in public has done little to help the Hamas image. They need to hire a publicist who can teach them, after each attack, to say the bombing was intended to take out an Israeli government official/war criminal and that they are very sorry about the babies who got killed but that's collateral damage for you.

On the electoral front, Arabs being Arabs, President Bush should know better than to try and steal an election with those people. They are too new to democracy. This is Palestine, not Florida or Ohio. Anyway, the connection in people's minds between democracy and election is purely artificial. The more advanced countries have election-free or, as Karl Rove might put it, "guided democracies." They work better and you always get your money's worth.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 12:03 pm
Hamas confronts challenge of governing
Posted on Fri, Jan. 27, 2006
Hamas confronts challenge of governing
By Dion Nissenbaum
Knight Ridder Newspapers
RAMALLAH, West Bank

After exceeding their most optimistic expectations by seizing control of the Palestinian government, Hamas leaders headed to Friday prayers facing a future that even they sought to avoid.

Overnight, the Islamist militants who've fought a brutal war against Israel are having to think about how to keep the lights on, root out government corruption and, more than anything, lead Palestinians in creating their long-denied independent state.

It wasn't what Hamas leaders sought. When it decided to run in legislative elections for the first time, Hamas hoped to be an influential opposition party that could press hard-line views without bearing the full burden of running daily affairs.

"Hamas is at an historical juncture," said Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst for the independent International Crisis Group, speaking from Amman, Jordan. "The problem for Hamas is that it's now in a position where, even if it doesn't want to, it has to govern."

Like militant movements before it, Hamas may have to jettison revolutionary ideals as it grapples with the mundane problems of running a government.

Hamas says it's ready, despite widespread concerns that it's not up to the challenge. The group has managed well-respected charities and social programs, and in the past year it won praise when its members took over the job of governing major cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The biggest question facing Hamas is whether it's willing to abandon its prime objective: destroying Israel and creating a Palestinian state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Until the group accepts Israel's right to exist, Hamas is likely to remain a pariah in the international community. Israel and the United States say there can be no talks with the new Palestinian government until Hamas abandons its hard-line stance. The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat faced similar pressures in the late 1980s.

While snubbing Israel wasn't a problem when the militant group was using suicide bombings as its main strategy, it will create a major dilemma for Hamas as the ruling party.

The Palestinian Authority relies heavily on international money to shore up its nearly bankrupt economy. The PA receives about $360 million in direct international aid, accounting for about a fifth of its $1.6 billion budget. About $70 million of that comes from the United States, but billions more from around the world flows into the West Bank and Gaza Strip through the World Bank and various aid groups.

The European community and the United States have made it clear that they'll cut off direct funding to a Hamas-run Palestinian government if the group doesn't renounce violence and accept Israel.

Another major issue will be what to do with Hamas militants. The long-stalled U.S.-backed road map, which was designed to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, calls on Palestinian leaders to disarm militant groups in the early stages.

Abbas had indicated that he would begin taking guns from militants after the election.

But should Hamas gain control of the security forces, along with the Palestinian intelligence operation, it's unclear whether it will disarm militants, which include its own members

Indeed, control of the Fatah-heavy security forces itself could become a political issue. The various forces report directly to the interior minister, but ultimately answer to the president. Hamas could seek to install one of its members as interior minister, but Fatah members in the security forces have said they may resist that move.

Even then, it's unclear what a Hamas-led government would do. There are concerns that the 56,000-strong security forces are bloated with police and soldiers who do little more than collect paychecks. But kicking them out or replacing them with Hamas soldiers could generate problems by creating a class of disgruntled former soldiers.
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 01:24 pm
Re: Surprise, Surprise!
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
Surprise, Surprise!
by Nicholas von Hoffman
01.27.2006

. . . .

Now Hamas, the terrorist group, is elected and there is a mass freak out because the organization's charter fails to recognize Israel's right to exist. What difference does that make in the real world?


It depends on who wins the Israeli election.

If the Kadima party retains power, they'll probably continue to pull out of Palestinian areas and wall them off from Israel, letting Hamas take charge of the areas the Israelis leave, so long as Hamas agrees to not attack Israel.

I don't know what will happen if Netanyahu leads Likud back into power.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 01:39 pm
Re: Surprise, Surprise!
oralloy wrote:
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
Surprise, Surprise!
by Nicholas von Hoffman
01.27.2006
Now Hamas, the terrorist group, is elected and there is a mass freak out because the organization's charter fails to recognize Israel's right to exist. What difference does that make in the real world?


It depends on who wins the Israeli election.

If the Kadima party retains power, they'll probably continue to pull out of Palestinian areas and wall them off from Israel, letting Hamas take charge of the areas the Israelis leave, so long as Hamas agrees to not attack Israel. I don't know what will happen if Netanyahu leads Liked back into power.


When a Likud radical killed Rabin, it doomed the peace process until Sharon opted to leave Likud and try to make peace, thereby undoing the harm he had done with the settlement policy. Sharon was not altruistic. He feared the higher Arab birthrate would create an Israeli minority population and Israel would lose the battle of sex. Everything depends on Likud losing the next election.

The only hope is that Hamas will not follow the pattern of Arafat's failure to evolve from a terrorist leader and, instead, evolve into a political country management leader. If not, they will continue killing each other for decades. And there are more Arabs than Jews.

BBB
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 02:15 pm
Does it seem possible the Palestinians will have their own little civil war now?
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 02:50 pm
Great minds think alike, edgar.

http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1822105#1822105
0 Replies
 
Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 04:56 pm
J_B wrote:
Great minds think alike, edgar.
and fools never differ
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 07:21 pm
Re: Surprise, Surprise!
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
When a Likud radical killed Rabin, it doomed the peace process until Sharon opted to leave Likud and try to make peace, thereby undoing the harm he had done with the settlement policy.


Sharon wasn't trying to make peace. He was trying to unilaterally decide the borders between Israel and the Palestinians, and impose those borders on the Palestinians against their will by building a wall.

It was Barak who breathed life back into the peace process. But the Intifada toppled him before an agreement was reached.

When Barak fell, the peace process died for good.



BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
Sharon was not altruistic. He feared the higher Arab birthrate would create an Israeli minority population and Israel would lose the battle of sex.


Yep.



BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
Everything depends on Likud losing the next election.


If Likud wins, the way forward will certainly be much cloudier.

However, Kadima will survive a Netanyahu victory, and would eventually see power again.



BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
The only hope is that Hamas will not follow the pattern of Arafat's failure to evolve from a terrorist leader and, instead, evolve into a political country management leader.


I think Arafat evolved from being a terrorist. The problem is that he evolved into a corrupt politician who did nothing but line his own pockets.



BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
If not, they will continue killing each other for decades. And there are more Arabs than Jews.


Yes, but Israel has an effective way of keeping the Palestinians from killing them (their infamous wall).
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 10:16 pm
revel wrote:
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
revel wrote:
This spreading of Democracy don't seem to be going the way I imagine it was intended.


And how do you think it was intended revel?

There's only one way to read a comment like this: Belittling of the strategy to spread democracy.

How anyone can oppose such a strategy is beyond me -- unless of course if it is a political knee-jerk reaction: Republicans/Neo-Cons have made spreading democracy a foreign policy, therefore anyone who is not happy about Republicans/Neo-Cons must sneer at the policy.

Democrats/Liberal take up the spread democracy banner and watch how fast revel is all over it.


I think any reasonable person can guess how it was intended to go. I seriously doubt they felt that spreading democracy would have the effect of spreading fundamentalist Islam. . I truly think they were so arrogant they felt that surely all those Muslims in those countries would want to free from Islamic rules. It appears they were wrong.

Hamas did not campaign on an Islamic platform. They campaigned on a platform of reform. Their secondary appeal might have been that they talk and act tough about Israel. Somewhere well down the line was Islam.

Personally I think democracy can be spread by example rather than force.

And how did the US force democracy on the Palestinians?

It is one thing to go a country and peaceably try to encourage democracy and it is another thing entirely to force it by having unjustified wars.

And how might democracy have been introduced to Iraq peacefully?

Also I think people in their own countries should be able to elect who they see fit, if they want fundamentalist in leadership positions in their government, then that is their choice.

Again, Hamas was not elected into power on the basis of a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, but yes, the Palestinians should be free to elect whomever they want to, and they have. Because they have, though, doesn't mean that the rest of the world is required to deal with their choice. The Palestinians have chosen Hamas, for whatever reasons, and now they will live with the consequences of their choice.

0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 10:20 pm
Re: Surprise, Surprise!
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
I was surprised that so many so-called intelligent people were surprised that Hamas won. Anyone who knew anything about the Palestinians and their circumstances expected Hamas to win. My hope is that Hamas can evolve from a partially terrorist organization (it is two, one for providing Palestinian services and the other is anti-Israel terrorism) to an effective political leadership organization that will improve the lives of Palestinians and create economic viability to suport more democratic institutions and opportunities. Their greatest challenge will be to avoid falling into the corruption trap that caused Fatah to fail it's people. ---BBB



Partially terrorist organization?

If I hand out candy to children while I mow down their parents, am I a partial murderer?
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 11:04 pm
Re: Surprise, Surprise!
oralloy wrote:


Sharon wasn't trying to make peace. He was trying to unilaterally decide the borders between Israel and the Palestinians, and impose those borders on the Palestinians against their will by building a wall.

And thereby achieve peace. The Palestinanians have made it quite clear that they have no desire to negotiate in good faith for peace. Sharon's approach did not encompass negotiations, but it was a plan for eventual peace.

In the absence of an entirely unexpected and enormous change in Palestinan position, negotiating the border of Israel and Palestine will never bear fruit. Israel will not, under any circumstances, voluntarily give up any portion of Jeruselam to Palestinian control.

Sharon was a flawed human being (but then who isn't?) but his brilliance was to find a third way that actually held the promise of peace. Negotiations with the Palestinians hold no promise, and military subjugation of them is equally ineffective.

Once the Palestinians accept that they will never conquer Israel, they can settle in to their own nation and begin the process of building a future for their people.

It was Barak who breathed life back into the peace process. But the Intifada toppled him before an agreement was reached.

When Barak fell, the peace process died for good.

That's a pretty dramatic pronouncement.

In any case it wasn't the Intifada that toppled Barak, but the bad faith of Arafat.


BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
Sharon was not altruistic. He feared the higher Arab birthrate would create an Israeli minority population and Israel would lose the battle of sex.


Yep.

And do we really expect altruism for our leaders?



0 Replies
 
Galilite
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2006 11:24 pm
Political system in Israel
It seems that many people here assume that Israeli political system is somewhat similar to the one in US or UK with two dominant parties and solid ideologies defined by a party rather than a leader. In fact, it is quite different. Political parties in Israel play small role. The decisions are formed by and around the leaders - be it Ben Gurion, Begin, Sharon, Rabin or Peres. When forming a new government, the future prime minister has to solve a puzzle which one of the small parties will be less pain in the a** and likely to start a mutiny (a realistic concern, because as I remember not even one government in 1990s ruled for the full 4 years). While usually the parties that tag along are those of similar ideology, it is not a must. BBB - Igal Amir, Rabin's killer, has never been a Likudnik AFAIK. Settlers usually vote for MAFDAL - a small right wing party.

Factions are being conceived and die on the fly - like Kadima, David Levi's failed experiments, stupid Shinui (which I voted for :-( ), lots of religious parties. Here's the updated breakdown by factions:
http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/MKIndex_Current_eng.asp?view=1

It's not that Likud leaders don't sign peace agreements; in fact, Menachem Begin, the founder of Likud, made the strongest move ever - peace with Egypt and withdrawal from oil-rich Sinai a few times larger than rest of the Israel. Ben Gurion, on the other hand, of Labour / Avoda, was regarded as a hawk.

Moreover, frequently leaders change their views and programs according to the circumstances. I can't give a link here (the article was in Hebrew), but the three main contenders in the current elections are regarded by Israeli press as "twins" - despite the changes in wording, most people believe they'ld make the same or similar decisions regarding the external policy.
0 Replies
 
revel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2006 12:26 pm
Finn D'Abuzz,

You are correct that Hamas didn't run on a religious platform, nevertheless, they are a religious group more so than the Fatah who they beat out and the voters knew that going in. They also knew that they are hardliners in regards to Israel and the US, yet they voted for them. My whole point to this is that Bush has been bragging that since we invaded Iraq and they now can have free elections and that in turn has opened the doors for democracy everywhere in that part of the world, it surely has not turned out they way they envisioned though they do seem to having elections.

There is an article, I am not sure I agree with the last part, but there is one paragraph where he just states facts.

Quote:
But that combination has failed this troubled region. The first functional election in the Palestinian Authority has thrown up Hamas. In December 2005, the Egyptian electorate came out strongly for the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic party, and not for liberal elements. In Iraq, the post-Saddam electorate voted in a pro-Iranian Islamist as prime minister. In Lebanon, the voters celebrated the withdrawal of Syrian troops by voting Hezbollah into the government. Likewise, radical Islamic elements have prospered in elections in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.


http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17975044%255E601,00.html
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Jan, 2006 11:37 am
Rice Admits US Underestimated Hamas Strength
Rice Admits US Underestimated Hamas Strength
By Steven R. Weisman
The New York Times
Monday 30 January 2006

London - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged Sunday that the United States had failed to understand the depth of hostility among Palestinians toward their longtime leaders. The hostility led to an election victory by the militant group Hamas that has reduced to tatters crucial assumptions underlying American policies and hopes in the Middle East.

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Ms. Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

Immediately after the election, Bush administration officials said the results reflected a Palestinian desire for change and not necessarily an embrace of Hamas, which the United States, Israel and the European Union consider a terrorist organization sworn to Israel's destruction. But Ms. Rice's comments seemed to reflect a certain second-guessing over how the administration had failed to foresee, or factor into its thinking, the possibility of a Hamas victory.

Indeed, Hamas's victory has set off a debate whether the administration was so wedded to its belief in democracy that it could not see the dangers of holding elections in regions where Islamist groups were strong and democratic institutions weak.

"There is a lot of blame to go around," said Martin Indyk, a top Middle East negotiator in the Clinton administration, referring to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and his Fatah party. "But on the American side, the conceptual failure that contributed to disaster was the president's belief that democracy and elections solve everything."

Ms. Rice pointed out that the election results surprised just about everyone. "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas's strong showing," she said on her way to London for meetings on the Middle East, Iran and other matters. "Some say that Hamas itself was caught off guard by its strong showing."

With increasing vehemence in the last few days, administration officials have defended their decision to back Mr. Abbas with American aid and to rebuff Israel when it warned that the election should not be held as long as Hamas participated while refusing to lay down its arms. Those officials continue to lay most of the blame on Mr. Abbas for not offering a positive alternative to Hamas.

American officials say they were never comfortable with Mr. Abbas's decision that the elections be held without the disarmament of Hamas, but they went along with it because there was no alternative. One official recounted how President Bush had personally but unsuccessfully appealed to Mr. Abbas at the White House last October to disarm Hamas before the elections.

"The fact is, Abu Mazen wouldn't do it," said the official, referring to Mr. Abbas. "He said he wouldn't do it, because he said he couldn't do it."

What Mr. Abbas instead offered at the White House was a plan to avoid a civil war among Palestinians by winning the election and only then disarming Hamas and folding it into the mainstream. The administration resolved, in turn, to support Mr. Abbas's political party with whatever diplomacy or resources it could.

Even while acknowledging the failure to foresee a Hamas victory, Ms. Rice said the American decisions were basically correct. Contrary to some reports that even Mr. Abbas wanted the elections delayed, she said a postponement was neither possible nor desirable.

"Our constant discussions with Abu Mazen suggested that he wanted to go ahead with the elections and go ahead with them on time," Ms. Rice said. "We had to support that. I just don't understand the argument that somehow it would have gotten better the longer it went on."

At another point, she said: "You ask yourself, Are you going to support a policy of denying the Palestinians elections that had been promised to them at a certain point in time because people were fearful of the outcome?"

Others noted that the Palestinian elections had been postponed once already, from last summer to January, to give Mr. Abbas and Fatah time to capitalize on the pullout of Israeli settlers from Gaza in August.

To help Mr. Abbas, the United States and its European partners mobilized hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for the Palestinians to meet their payrolls, field their security forces, make welfare payments and build infrastructure.

The total outside assistance to the Palestinians runs to more than $1 billion a year. Now Ms. Rice will meet in London on Monday with top officials of Europe, the United Nations and Russia to call on Hamas to abandon its vow to destroy Israel and to disarm and negotiate a two-state solution in the Middle East, or risk having this aid cut off.

"You've got to hedge against the risk that elections are going to lead to precisely this result," said Mr. Indyk, the former Middle East negotiator. "The hedge is to build civil society and democratic institutions first. But this administration doesn't listen to that."

Many experts blame the Palestinians for most of their problems, particularly the corruption and mismanagement in Mr. Abbas's Fatah organization. Hamas, by contrast, capitalized on its image of integrity and its record of delivering services.

Mr. Abbas is widely described as bitter that he failed to strengthen his hand by getting American help in persuading Israel to curb settlement growth, release prisoners and lift the checkpoints and roadblocks choking off livelihoods in the West Bank. By all accounts, Mr. Abbas's frustration with the administration on this score was met with frustration on the American side that he was not doing enough to crack down on violence and root out corruption.

The administration was also under pressure from Europeans to try to coax Hamas into the mainstream, and it did not want to rebuff their advice at a time when it was trying to work closely with the Europeans on isolating Iran.

Administration officials said that even in the analysis of Israelis, Hamas's behavior in accepting a period of "calm" in the last year - ceasing its attacks on Israeli civilians - meant that it was willing to break with other groups like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Israeli and American officials felt that such a trend was to be encouraged.

As for Mr. Abbas's position on disarming Hamas after the elections, an administration official said: "Our sense was that there was a certain logic to his presentation, and we did not see that we could force an alternative on him. But we were also skeptical."

The administration then immediately began working with European and other allies to set up "normative standards" for any group participating in the political process. Those standards are to be the focus of the talks in London, with the financing cutoff an implicit threat to Hamas. But a cutoff could force Hamas to turn to other sources, like Iran, for help.

Ms. Rice told reporters that she was convinced of the wisdom of instilling democracy in the Middle East. Elections have brought into office anti-American Islamic radicals in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran, but Ms. Rice said the alternative was trying to bottle up seething anger in the region that could lead to more terrorist attacks in the West.

"There is a huge transition going on in the Middle East, as a whole and in its parts," she said. "The outcomes that we're seeing in any number of places, I will be the first to say, have a sense of unpredictability about them. That's the nature of big historic change. It's simply the way it is."
0 Replies
 
 

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