In January of last year I visited Mahmoud Abbas at his office in Ramallah, a day before the Palestinian legislative council elections were held. His office was packed with former dignitaries such as former US President Jimmy Carter and former prime ministers and foreign ministers from a host of European countries.
When I introduced myself I added the word "former" to my name. Abbas chose to go along with this. With a half, saddened half mischievous smile he introduced himself: "Abu Mazen (Abbas), former president."
The elections that brought Hamas to power were cleaner than any other elections held throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. "The National Democracy Institute," an American institution aided by Congress and US Administration funds that diligently works to cultivate democracy worldwide, sent a large delegation of multinational observers to oversee the elections.
The Europeans added observers of their own. Israel, under American pressure, removed roadblocks and turned a blind eye to the Hamas flags being waved openly in East Jerusalem. Everyone - including Abbas, until the eve of elections, marched with their eyes wide open towards the catastrophe.
The magic word was "democracy." The Bush Administration adopted it as though it were an American brand set to conquer the global market. Microsoft, McDonalds and democracy. Finance their elections and they will be yours. Not only will they accept your authority and swear their allegiance, they will also adopt your values. This transpired in West Germany and in Japan following WWI - there is no reason for it to happen in the Arab world.
The magic of democracy was formulated in the house of neo-conservatism, a band of right-wing intellectuals, primarily Jewish, who enjoyed great influence in the Bush Administration.
Natan Sharansky contributed the moral dimension. Sharansky is an American hero: He rose to stardom in America during Ronald Reagan's terms in office, when the evil empire was the USSR and Sharansky was the bold freedom fighter who disappeared into corrective labor camps.
A book he wrote titled The Case for Democracy, co-written with Ron Dermer, a Benjamin Netanyahu loyalist and economic affairs attaché at the Israeli embassy in Washington, urged to make democratic regimes a prerequisite for talks with any state that is undemocratic. The book is reminiscent of a hamburger: Fast food, easy to digest, unhealthy to the user. George Bush, Dick Cheney and their surroundings ate it heartily.
Hamas corruption destructive
In wake of the botched American war in Iraq and the deterioration in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, the lion's share of the US political system admits that a tragic mistake was made. The Bush administration reiterated its old policies that preferred tyrannical regimes and violators of human rights, as long as American foreign policies were supported. Democracy out.
When Abbas threatened over the weekend to call for early elections, the US Administration's response was enthusiastic. Not because the Administration wants elections, but because it is waiting for the day when Abbas will dispose of the democratically elected Hamas government and put the Palestinian Authority into order.
Last week Natan Sharansky received the Medal of Freedom from President Bush. The medal is considered an outstanding honor. No other Israeli citizen has ever been awarded this honor in the past and is unlikely to receive it in the future.
In such events it is customary to say that it is not just the man who is being honored but also his state. Not in this case: The honor is Sharansky's alone. He is a dear man, whose heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, the campaign that bore his name only caused harm.
Hamas is an organization that is run from the outside by a Syrian-Iranian agent who goes by the name of Khaled Mashal and who was not elected by the Palestinian people. It is an organization that has hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, but prefers to invest its funds in Qassam rockets instead of in the welfare of the Palestinian people.
Abbas' Fatah movement lost the elections because it was corrupt. Yet Hamas corruption is far more destructive and fatal.
An agreement with Hamas seems unlikely, and long term calm doesn’t seem to be in reach either. Therefore it would be good news for Israel if Abbas succeeds in getting rid of Hamas, with or without elections. History has shown that there is not much sense in a democracy that brings to power anti-democratic regimes.