The Palestinian Vote
As this post is published, the polling in the Palestinian Territories commences. The BBC has an excellent and concise guide to what’s at stake and the general electoral process in the Palestinian Territories. Various terrorist groups have vowed not to disrupt the election process, yet what takes place after the ballot dust settles will surely be less quiet as the losing party’s factions will react violently to the loss or denial of political control.
On Monday night, as the election began to draw near, a Nablus Fatah leader was shot in the window of his home and killed Monday night. The gunmen were shooting at campaign posters on his house when he leaned out of his window to yell at them to stop. He was shot where he stood. It is said that he was shot by gunmen from his own Fatah party, though no reports indicate how this is known. The reported killing of a Fatah leader by his own members drew crowds into the streets shouting, “Enough, enough. We want the police to protect us.”
By most reports, it appears that the current ruling Fatah Party, the legacy of Yasser Arafat, will retain power, albeit by slight margins. In an effort to ensure that the US does not have to deal with the diplomatic mess that a Hamas victory would mean, the United States has, through USAID, sent sent $2 million in funds to the Palestinian Authority that, according to the Washington Post report, was meant for pre-election projects that would assist in creating a more favorable domestic view of the PA. While the article is written with a critical tone, ensuring that a terrorist group like Hamas is not allowed to successfully ‘market’ a false softer tone is absolutely critical. Hamas hired an image consultant to put a softer public face on the terrorist group who has historically been responsible for terrorist attacks on Israel, vowing to destroy the state of Israel.
For whatever gains Hamas makes with their slightly modulated new public tone, Steven Emerson notes at The Counterterrorism Blog that they are losing badly in the courtrooms. While they have lost a multi-million dollar suit in the United States ($156M) , primarily aimed at the charity groups that support Hamas, they have just been handed a $22 million dollar judgement against them in Jerusalem for a 2002 terrorist attack that killed four Israelis.
Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said before the polls opened that Israel’s only road to peace is a two-state solution. He went further to say that Israel would need to withdraw from the West Bank, including most settlers, and draw precise borders ‘to ensure a Jewish majority’ in the state of Israel. In an apparent signal to Palestinian voters not to ‘rock the boat’ currently on that path, Olmert added, “As Sharon said, we must not allow this new spirit to pass us by. I do not intend to miss this opportunity.” The simple implication is that Sharon was not negotiating with Hamas towards that end. It was Abbas and the PA.
No matter the high amount of violence in the run up to the elections (especially in Gaza), Election Day will likely be a day of relative calm, as the election that inspired the violence is allowed unfold peacefully. How the bitterness manifests itself after the results are tallied and announced is another story entirely.