Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Face of Hamas

The New York Times
The Face of Hamas

After the Palestinian election, the burning question was which part of Hamas would dominate the new government: would it be the political organization that provides a desperate people with vital services, or the terrorist group that advocates the violent destruction of Israel? Now we have the answer, in Hamas's monumentally cynical and dimwitted applause for the bombing that killed nine people and wounded dozens in Tel Aviv on Monday.

In contrast, Israel's prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, has taken the high road, at least for now. Israel didn't launch a big reprisal attack. Mr. Olmert's office said Israel would instead revoke the residency permits of Hamas officials living in East Jerusalem, and the Israelis conducted raids in the West Bank and made arrests. Mr. Olmert's cabinet also approved a police crackdown on the smuggling of Palestinians into Israel, tightening what is an already tight noose around Palestinian territory.

That's really what makes Hamas's response to the suicide attack not just immoral, but stupid as well.

The attack was presumably not carried out by Hamas; Islamic Jihad said it was responsible. But Hamas is no longer just a terrorist ally of Islamic Jihad. Last time we checked, it is the government of the Palestinian people. It cannot just sit on the sidelines and cheer terrorist attacks that were renounced by the same Palestinian Authority that Hamas now controls. In a democracy, Hamas cannot reject positions ratified by previous Palestinian parliaments without first going back to the Palestinian people for a vote.

Hamas's support for terrorism encourages Mr. Olmert's strategy of a unilateral separation from the Palestinian people. It's a sure bet that if Israel carries out this separation without input from the Palestinians — as it is now doing — the Palestinians will not end up with enough land for a viable state.

Finally, lest Hamas forget, it is flat broke. The coffers it inherited from Fatah are empty, and both the United States and the European Union have rightly refused to bankroll a Hamas government that preaches and practices terrorism, denies that Israel has any right to exist, and refuses to abide by peace agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments. Hamas has received pledges from Muslim states — notably $50 million each from Qatar and Iran — to help make up some of the shortfall. But that doesn't come close to the $300 million the United States had pledged, and it would behoove Hamas to remember that the gulf states in particular are notorious for not keeping their promises.