Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, lamented, "Once again, extremists carrying guns have prevented progress against the wishes of the majority who seek a peaceful two-state solution." But how do you square this with the fact that Hamas, the party promising the destruction of Israel, won the Palestinian elections in 2005? Meanwhile, the leaders of Fatah - the "moderates" - had not long ago set the standard for Israel-hatred themselves.
The great irony is that Hamas now labels members of Fatah as Jewish "collaborators," a designation that apparently justifies even the execution of wounded Fatah prisoners in hospitals.
The German foreign ministry went so far as to suggest that Hamas' triumph necessitates increasing aid to Gaza because of the hardships Hamas rule will cause. It seems that if you choose terrorism, either at the ballot box or in the streets, the Europeans, like the good hands at Allstate, will be there to pay for the mess.
But there's another, perhaps more important, lesson to be drawn from the Hamas ascendancy. The Bush administration pushed for democracy in the Palestinian territories and got what it wished for - in spades. The assumption behind the push for democracy in Gaza and in Iraq is that Arabs can be trusted to handle political freedom. Even the Democrats demanding an immediate pullout from Iraq hope that with democracy, the Iraqis will be able to sort out their problems themselves via some euphemistic "political solution." That is unless the antiwar Democrats are really advocating turning all of Mesopotamia into one giant Gaza Strip - the far more likely result of U.S. withdrawal.
For many disciples of the "international peace process," it's a matter of faith that the Palestinians just have to want peace, because how else can you have a peace process? For many supporters of the Bush Doctrine, Iraqis have to want democracy, because if they don't, what's the point of having a freedom agenda? But what if these are just beloved Western fictions? We see a well-lighted path to the good life: democracy, tolerance, rule of law, markets. But what if the Arab world just isn't interested in our path? As a believer in the freedom agenda, that's what scares me most.
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