This past Wednesday, January 25, 2006, the radical Islamic party, Hamas, won a landslide election for the seats in the Palestinian parliament, capturing 80 out of the 132 seats. This election has had complex reasons, and will have complex results. Here are some factors to consider:
1. One Israeli correspondent described the choice between Hamas and Fatah (Arafat’s and Abu Mazen’s party) as a choice between a snake and a scorpion. Hamas is made up of “dark fanatics, terrorists under the cover of the Koran, who have wrapped themselves in a thin layer of personal integrity and modesty,” while Fatah is “plagued with continuing moral decadence, financial corruption and violence, crumbling and impotent.” (Nahum Barnea, Yediot, Musaf Sabbat, J27 p2.)
2. There were a number of angry reactions within Israel against our intelligence forces who failed to predict the extent of the Hamas victory.
3. American President George Bush has clarified that the US will not have diplomatic relations, nor support financially, a Hamas-based government so long as they hold to their position calling for the destruction of Israel, the continuing use of terrorism, and the refusal to turn their weapons over to an official PA militia.
4. Hamas, like Hizballah in Lebanon, is supported by Iran, both financially and ideologically. From the Iranian “Jihad” worldview, Hamas and Hizballah represent two sides of a “pincer” movement, squeezing and attacking Israel.
5. While both Hamas and Fatah are Islamic, Hamas is more motivated by Islamic religion, while Fatah is motivated by liberation politics. While both Hamas and Fatah support terror, Hamas puts more strategic emphasis on terror as a means of fighting Israel. While both hate Israel, Fatah has announced willingness to negotiate with Israel for a compromise solution, while Hamas has claimed a total denial of Israel’s right to exist.
6. Despite these ideologies, the most significant factor influencing so many Palestinians to vote for Hamas was the economic one. Fatah is seen as corrupt by the average Palestinian, whereas Hamas is seen as more trustworthy to use funds at their disposal to build schools, welfare institutions, and social stability. As much as the Palestinians hate Israel, they are more motivated out of desperation to provide the basic day-to-day needs for their families.
7. At this point, a coalition government seems likely, with Abu Mazen as President keeping control over the Palestinian security forces (police) and over the diplomatic portfolios (relations with Israel and other nations), with Hamas controlling the media, education, treasury, religion, and interior ministries. This will probably mean a change for the worse in the news broadcasts, the school textbooks, and an increase in funding for mosques and Muslim propaganda.
8. After the miraculous victory of Israel in the 1967 “six day war,” Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (founder of Hamas) sought a new approach for Palestinian liberation. He began to work with the “Islamic Brotherhood” to increase the growth of Islam among the Palestinians. They built daycare centers, school rooms, social clubs, and eventually the Islamic University in Gaza. Their first acts of violence were not against Israelis, but against “Western” influenced Palestinians. On December 14, 1987, Hamas was officially formed. They adopted the strategy of terror against Israel, and on April 16, 1993, the first Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up at the Hulah restaurant in the Jordan Valley. In the following years, hundreds of Israelis were murdered by Hamas suicide terrorists. (Ron Shaked, Yediot, ibid.)
9. Hamas is in favor of “Sheriyah,” Islamic religious law, becoming the law of the state of Palestine. This would require all women, for instance, to wear cloths covering their head, hair, and necks. It would demand Islamic education at all schools and make other religions outlawed. How could this Sheriyah become law? A simple 2/3’s majority of the parliament would be needed to change the constitution of the Palestinian Authority. Less than 2/3’s majority of a legislation could be vetoed by the President (Abu Mazen). There are 132 seats. 88 would be required. Hamas has currently 80. All they would need is another 8 votes.
10. Some armed factions connected with Fatah have already started to fight the Hamas control of the government. Armed Fatah gangs clashed with Hamas youth, both trying to take over the parliament building in Ramallah. More clashes could be expected between Fatah and Hamas in the future.
11. While the West has been demanding “democratic elections” in the Muslim world, what is needed more is democratic “values,” such as freedom of the press, freedom of religion, civil rights, independent judiciary, open education, etc. If not, Muslim forces (like Hamas), which are anti-democratic, will use the democratic process to take over the government and then end all democratic rights for the citizens. This is particularly dangerous in Egypt and Jordan, where the two regimes have been more cooperative with Israel, yet Egypt’s president (Mubarak) and Jordan’s king (Hussein) are not elected democratically. Elections in their countries could give rise to a more radical Islamic regime, as it did here among the Palestinians and in Iran.
12. The person in Israel who has the most to gain from Hamas’ victory is Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinian terrorism and hatred of Israel usually causes a reaction among Israeli voters to move more to the right.
13. Ironically, some Israeli military strategists believe that the Hamas election might just improve the security situation, in the sense that the Palestinian position will be more defined. For the two decades, Fatah has been playing a dishonest game in claiming that they were refraining from terror and negotiating with Israel, while all the time, they were allowing Hamas, Jihad and G’dudei El Aksa to carry out terror attacks. Then Fatah and the PA would claim that they were not responsible for the terror. If now government coalition with Hamas sponsors a terror attack, then the Palestinian Authority becomes directly responsible for the attacks, and thus stronger military actions can be taken by Israel against the terror.
14. Also ironically, some political analysts also see a possibility that Hamas will be ultimately more able to pull off some sort of agreement with Israel, which could never have happened while Hamas was in the opposition. Including them in the government might make the government more able to take a practical step. The same is true in Israel, that a right wing government is actually more able to make concessions, because if a left wing government tried to make concessions, the right wing would oppose it. By the nature of being in the opposition, there is a tendency to be more radical; and when that same opposition group finds itself in authority, their positions have to be moderated by the practical reality and responsibility before them.
15. The Hamas election precipitated a meeting this week between Israeli Knesset members (led by Yuri Stern) and leaders of all the different streams of Christianity in Israel. This included Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Christian Zionists (just not Messianics, of course.) They discussed the need for Jews and Christians to stand together against Islamic extremism, which seeks both of their destruction.
16. Zechariah 14:2 states that “I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.” Describing this same apocalyptic event, Revelation 19:19 speaks of “the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together against Him (Yeshua/Jesus) who sat on the horse and against His army.” At the time of the Second Coming, the forces of Islam and Humanism will be gathered together to fight against Israel and against Yeshua. That must mean, that before this war takes place, true Christians will move closer in alliance with Israel, and the nation of Israel will move closer in faith to Yeshua as their Messiah. This double “alignment” is already started today, for both good and bad. We need to hasten the good and to bind the bad part of the alignment.
17. One of our concerns in prayer should be the attempt of an Islamic government to stop the spread of the gospel among the Palestinians. Let us pray for the true Palestinian Christians to be strong and continue to be a light for the gospel, despite all opposition and persecution.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.