With the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, much of the implicit progress made since Arafat’s death seems to be at danger. It is hard to imagine how a group that blows up ice-cream parlors in Israel and has totally undermined the image of the Palestinian movement towards statehood in the past decade can help improve the future of the Palestinian people.
Not unlike the trends in the recent presidential elections in Iran, the vote for Hamas can be seen more as dissatisfaction with the “reformist” Fatah movement and its inability to bring positive change to the lives of Palestinians who live in one of the most difficult conditions in the world today, rather than a shift back towards Islamic fundamentalism. Hamas shrewdly created social infrastructure and is know to provide extensive social service within Gaza and the West Bank.
What was also disheartening was the violent and disoriented reaction shown by Fatah supporters, who are more worried about losing control than thinking about what they did wrong in the past decades.
With Sharon gone (at least from politics), the balance in the conflict seems to be very delicate. Add to that the Iranian nuclear issue, the instability of the house of Saud, the religous chasm in Iraq and we have the perfect receipe for a time bomb. And given the interconnectedness of all the countries in the region, the risk of triggering a chaotic response in this metastable system is significant.
What can emerge from such an upheaval is either a region that can never again stand on its feet, or a completely new Middle East that is willing to detach itself from the vicious cycles of the past and face the future with new thoughts and new perspectives. Of course whatever happens needs to be of native conception. It is hard to imagine that any country from outside the region can bring in the solutions.
Challenging times ahead…