As irony would have it, democracy is now the biggest threat facing the so-called peace process between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This we have learned from the press reports and media spins that preceded and followed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's photogenic visit to President George W. Bush's ranch in Texas this week.
Both the Americans and the Israelis are concerned, deeply concerned that is, by the specter of the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council that are scheduled to take place on July 17, just a few days before Sharon's planned expulsion of all Jews from their homes, farms, businesses, synagogues and graves in Gaza and northern Samaria.
According to the polls, Hamas, which won some 70 percent of the seats in the recent municipal elections in Gaza, will do quite well in these elections ? winning at least a third of the legislative seats. Fatah sources acknowledge that, if anything, the polls have severely underestimated Hamas's support base. They believe that if the elections are held on schedule, Hamas will win a majority of seats in the PLC.
Recent weeks have brought on a steady drumbeat of statements by top IDF officials and Palestinian sources that Fatah is planning a major terror offensive in June in a bid either to force a postponement of the elections or to increase public support for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas's party ahead of the poll. Senior Fatah officials told The Jerusalem Post last Saturday that they wished to postpone the July elections in order to prevent a Hamas takeover, and the Israeli government, like the Bush Administration, is praying for their success.
The thing is, both the US and Israel are largely responsible for the current political realities in the PA ? where not only are all major political parties also terrorist organizations, but the relative popularity of each party is directly proportional to the volume of terror attacks it has carried out. It was the Bush Administration that first lumped the January 9 elections for PA chairman together with the January 30 general elections in Iraq for a transitional constitutional assembly, as well as with last month's anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon as evidence of a wave of democratization in the Middle East.
This conflation of these events has made it difficult for the general public to understand just how different the situation in the PA is from that of Iraq and Lebanon. As events in the latter two advance the goals of the global war on terrorism, the events in the PA work to its detriment.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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