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Peace may still be a possibility

By Barry Cohen - posted Monday, 6 February 2006

There is an interesting new definition of democracy now being espoused by the usual suspects since the results of the Palestinian elections became known.

It goes like this - the overwhelming victory of Hamas gives it the right to govern and to implement the mandate announced when it was founded almost 20 years ago. The world and the US and Israel in particular must, therefore, recognise a Hamas government and accept its mandate. Not to do so would be rank hypocrisy for it would be a total denial of the democratic principles Israel and the US have been calling for in the Middle East. It is an interesting definition but it is chutzpah, not democracy.

Hamas has every right to be regarded as the legitimate government of Palestine and there can be little doubt that Israel and the US will accept that legitimacy. I doubt, however, whether that will extend to accepting the mandate calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. To do so would give new meaning to the term mandate. What next? The possibilities are endless.


Before there is even a suggestion of the resumption of peace talks, there will need to be a cease-fire. First, between Fatah supporters and their leadership and then between Fatah and Hamas. Amazing how quickly Palestinians have accepted the fundamental principles of democracy - Middle East style.

I must be one of the few who are neither surprised nor disappointed at the result. Why anyone was stunned or gob-smacked is beyond me. For months every poll indicated that Hamas had either a slight lead or was neck and neck with Fatah.

The reasons were that Hamas provided excellent health and welfare services, was not corrupt and appealed to Islamic fundamentalists yearning for sharia law. Fatah, as everyone has pointed out for years, was massively corrupt and had failed to deliver for the Palestinians the state it had promised them.

Hamas committed to deliver that state, albeit with the bomb and the gun. That Palestinians are living in fantasy land is not surprising for they have been doing so since 1948 when they rejected the UN partition of Palestine into two states - one Jewish, one Arab. They have the will but not the capacity to destroy Israel. They have had endless opportunities to have their own country but as the late Abba Eban oft remarked, Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".

I won't pretend to be delirious about Hamas' success but it's better than the alternatives. Since Oslo, Israel has had to put up with the nonsense from Fatah, firstly under Yasser Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas, that, while it wanted to make peace with Israel (on unacceptable terms), it could not control the other factions - Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad et al. How convenient.

While Israeli governments were involved in "peace talks" with the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, the other factions carried out endless suicide raids on Israeli civilians. Arafat, described by president Bill Clinton as one of the world's great liars, was involved in peace talks with Israel while encouraging the suicide bombers. Abbas, who seemed genuinely to want peace, appeared weak and vacillating in dealing with the other factions.


Hamas' victory means that this time there will be no doubt about a Palestinian government's intentions. Only the loony Left would be stupid enough to expect Israel to negotiate or have contact with a government which, no matter what agreement was reached, would continue with its stated goal of the destruction of Israel.

There are some already saying, "Ah! But a Hamas government will moderate its position, cease terrorist activities and recognise Israel's right to exist." To which the obvious Israeli reply will be, "when they do that we will negotiate with them".

If, on the other hand, Hamas decides that it would prefer to continue with its ultimate goal of destroying Israel then the violence will continue, resulting in more and more death and injury and the continued suffering of the Palestinian people. There is only one way Israel can be destroyed and that is by a nuclear bomb. Which brings us to the real problem. Iran.

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First published in The Australian on February 2, 2006.

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About the Author

Barry Cohen was Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Environment in the Hawke Government from 1983 to 1987. He currently runs an animal sanctuary in Calga, NSW.

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