Can Democracy Help Solve The Problem of Gaza?
from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Can Democracy Help Solve The Problem of Gaza?

What would happen if Palestinian politics were revived?

The recent war between Hamas and Israel was a perhaps unnecessary reminder of the problem that Hamas control of Gaza brings--to Gazans, Israelis, and all Palestinians. It's obvious that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has no solutions to offer, and his most recent move was to cancel parliamentary elections yet again. None have been held since 2006, and he himself was elected in 2005--for a four year term now reaching its 17th year. It's also clear that neither Israel nor Egypt wishes to "conquer" Gaza and take full responsibility for the area and its populace.

What then are the options? This is the subject of a symposium in Mosaic Magazine, building on an analysis by former Israeli ambassador to the United States and Knesset member Michael Oren entitled "How Gaza Became Israel's Unsolvable Problem." 

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My own contribution is called "What Can Be Done Politically To Weaken Hamas." It begins this way:

America’s interests in Gaza are threefold: to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinians living there, to strengthen Israel’s security, and to see an end to the control of the Gaza Strip by a terrorist group increasingly allied with Iran. Hamas stands in the way of all three, and the end of Hamas control of Gaza should underpin America’s strategy in the region over the coming years. How can this be won?

I then argue that the "only possible way to remove or at least badly undermine Hamas in the long run is political: it is by reducing its level of support, building up support for alternative groups, and preventing it from ruling by sheer force. A key problem today is that there is no alternative that is more attractive to Palestinians." The goal should be to undermine Hamas by showing Gazans, over time, that there are better alternatives than perpetual rule by an Islamist proxy of Iran, and moreover, that those alternatives are real and indeed are visible in the West Bank. This is admittedly a long-term approach and one that may fail, but there are no short-term approaches that offer any real change. 

The idea, I conclude, is to give Palestinians an open choice between Hamas and decent government without corruption and terror. It is a choice they have never had except in the few months after Arafat died. 

My argument, and those of Amb. Oren, former Israeli National Security Adviser Gen. Yaacov Amidror, and Gen. Amos Yadlin, and others can be found at Mosaic

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