Director of Middle East and Gulf Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations
Rather than endorsing Hamas’ foreign policy objectives, Palestinians were clearly expressing enormous anger at Fatah’s corrupt practices, its inability to improve the local economy and the faltering security situation. According to a December poll, 86% of Palestinians believe Fatah is corrupt, 65% do not feel safe and secure, and 80% supported an extension of the cease-fire with Israel.
Still, can a group sworn to Israel’s destruction moderate once in office? Certainly discrepancies between the Hamas charter and its campaign platform suggest moderation is possible, as do initial Hamas statements supporting an extension of the current cease-fire with Israel. But Hamas will immediately face grave challenges such as a bankrupt treasury, nervous international donors and, most importantly, a decentralized security force and the fact that groups such as Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades and Iranian-funded Islamic Jihad are well outside its control. How Hamas handles these three key issues will provide the best guide for whether we should expect moderation over time. Certainly Hamas’ past performance offers little cause for optimism.
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