This was brought to my attention by Ken Brociner, a Meretz USA executive board member and an online columnist for In These Times magazine. His observation (below) is more poignant now, with the Hamas announcement officially ending the six-month truce:
Bush pushed and demanded – over Sharon’s objections – that Hamas be allowed to take part in those elections. What does this mean? What have been the
consequences? If Bush had not done so then, both the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be under PA rule and Abbas could be negotiating on behalf of both territories (unless Hamas pulled off a military coup). I never quite saw all this in such stark terms. It sure would be a much better situation today if both the West Bank and Gaza were under PA control. This may well be one of Bush’s most important “legacies” of all!
From Akiva Eldar’s Haaretz column, Dec. 16:
…. If Benjamin Netanyahu becomes prime minister, he will not have to work hard to stop Hamas and prevent the vote in the territories. All he will have to do is ask the Justice Ministry to pull out of the drawer the opinion prepared there in 2005, on the eve of the previous Palestinian elections.
At that time, the ministry’s professional staff, not the political staff, determined that Hamas does not meet the threshold requirements for parties seeking to participate in the elections. This is because the Oslo 2 Accords state that “the candidacy of parties and individuals will be cancelled if they act with or encourage racism or attempt to achieve their objectives through illegal or non-democratic means.”
Hamas’ problem is that if it meets these requirements it will cease being Hamas. The Justice Ministry’s experts in international law cite Hamas’ acts of terrorism and its texts calling for Israel’s destruction and the cancellation of diplomatic agreements. The document also relies on similar cases in Spain and Turkey, which in recent years disqualified similar parties whose appeals were rejected by a European court.
And who was the justice minister who requested this opinion? Tzipi Livni, Kadima’s candidate for prime minister who presented the opinion to every foreign leader who passed her way and even managed to persuade a few that she was right. The foreign minister at the time, Silvan Shalom, found a similar opinion in his ministry and backed Livni.
The prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, shrugged his shoulders and agreed that Hamas cannot be allowed to achieve through democratic means what it did not achieve through violent means, but added that he did not have the power to oppose President George W. Bush, who demanded democratization at any price. Bush also ignored Abu Mazen, who warned of a Hamas victory and asked, nearly pleaded, for the elections to be postponed.
It is hard to know how the incoming Democratic president of the United States, Barack Obama, will act on the Palestinian-Israeli issue in general and Hamas’ participation in the elections in particular. In an interview published this week in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abu Mazen claimed that in a conversation with Obama after the elections, the president-elect said he was committed to the promise he made during a meeting in Ramallah last summer — “to start with the peace process immediately.”