February 1, 2006
Palestinians Have Taken Off Masks, Israelis Can Take Off Gloves

By Jack Kelly

No decent person can be pleased when a terror group obtains political power, especially via the ballot box. But I wasn't surprised by Hamas' victory in the legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority, nor am I especially alarmed by it.

There's something to be said for clarity. What's changed in the Palestinian Authority is less the reality there than the ability of liberals in the West to keep ignoring it. Now the Palestinians will be represented by one face, rather than two.

Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist terror group, very much like al Qaida. It's raison d'etre is the destruction of Israel, and Hamas is straightforward about it.

The ruling Fatah party, which Hamas trounced, is also devoted to the destruction of Israel, but under longtime leader Yasir Arafat, was more clever about it. Mr. Arafat would say one thing in English to those in the West who desperately wanted to believe he was amenable to a "two state solution," and something quite different in Arabic to the home folks.

Mr. Arafat's duplicity paid big dividends, especially for him. Israel at Oslo granted Fatah a statelet, and the West showered upon it billions of dollars in aid, much of which made its way into Mr. Arafat's bank accounts (he died a multi-billionaire), and those of his cronies.

Fatah's notorious corruption probably had as much to do with the Hamas victory as did rising blood lust on the part of ordinary Palestinians. Hamas has developed a following by providing soup kitchens and other social services.

Those, like Jimmy Carter, who are desperate to maintain their illusions stress the corruption angle to assert that somehow, some way the West can "work with" a PA government dominated by Hamas.

For liberals, obtaining and maintaining political power is the be all and end all. They'll say anything, and do anything (that doesn't involve much risk to themselves) to get it and keep it. So they assume that leaders of Hamas, faced with the responsibilities of governing, will abandon their principles to keep power, as liberals would do.

But for Hamas, the be all and end all is the destruction of Israel, and there is absolutely no evidence Hamas' leaders will abandon that goal now that they appear to be closer to obtaining it.

As it works toward the glorious day when the Jews are driven into the sea, Hamas will be trying to make Palestine like Afghanistan under the Taliban. The number two man in the Hamas hierarchy told Toronto's Globe and Mail they will move quickly to impose Islamic law.

Hamas' Islamofascist zeal likely will come at a steep price. About 60 percent of the PA's budget comes from foreign, chiefly Western, donors, of which the United States is the largest. Much of the remainder consists of customs duties collected by Israel on the Palestinians' behalf.

President Bush and most Western European leaders say they won't do business with a Hamas-dominated government, and Israel might decide it is foolhardy to collect taxes on behalf of a statelet that is devoted to Israel's destruction.

Some of the shortfall likely will be made up for by Iran. But there are limits to what the mullahs can do. Iran has serious financial problems of its own, and most Iranians -- who are neither Arabs nor Sunni Muslims -- don't give a rat's tuchus about the Palestinians.

A close relationship with Iran, combined with the likelihood that much of al Qaida will relocate in the PA (things are getting much to hot in Iraq) will be further barriers to Western aid, without which the PA cannot survive.

Hamas will find there are complications to governing. In the past, Hamas could devote itself entirely to jihad. Now it must pay at least some attention to sewers, schools and potholes.

And Hamas must share power with president Mahmoud Abbas, to whom the Fatah-dominated security services report. The civil war journalists have long been predicting for Iraq is likely to break out soon in Palestine.

For Israel, the Hamas victory is liberating. It clarifies for both the Israeli public and the world at large that Palestinian hatred of the Jewish state burns as brightly as it did in 1948, and in every year since.

Israeli response to Palestinian terror was crippled during the years the world pretended there was such a thing as a "peace process." (Far more Israeli civilians were killed in the 13 years of "peace" since the Oslo Accords than in the 45 years of hostility that preceded it.) Now that the Palestinians have taken off their masks, Israeli gloves can come off, too.

Jack Kelly

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