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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Revolution Reaches Palestinians, Then What?

February 16, 2011 - 9:28 PM | by: Mike Tobin

As the wildfire of revolution and reform spreads through the Arab world, it jumps into the Palestinian territories and has leaders calling to get the long-stalled Palestinian elections back on track. The West Bank government announced over the weekend that a vote would take place by September.

The thinking man’s first reaction to that is: Wait a minute. Remember what happened when Palestinians went to the polls in 2006? The radical-islamic Hamas won, Israel and the West lost a unified-moderate government with which they could negotiate and ultimately the Palestinian territories were divided.

Without much delay, Hamas refused the call for elections. Gaza resident and television producer Nael Saeed Ghaboun says, “The time is not good for Hamas to accept an election.” Given the iron grip Hamas has on the Gaza strip, if the party refuses, no ballots will be cast in Gaza .

Now, we start to get a look at the subtle PR game being played out by Fatah, made evident by a widely reported quote from Presidential Aide Yasser Abed Rabbo, “We cannot be held hostage by Hamas and remain without elections.”

The Arab world is bursting with its desire for democracy. According to Diana Bhuttu, former aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas now gets painted as the obstacle between Palestinians and freedom. “This is a very clever move on their (Fatah’s) part to make Hamas look like they are the obstructionists.”  Public discussion of elections creates pressure for Hamas to allow them.

Palestinians, with whom I spoke, are aware that life has only become more miserable ever since Hamas won elections and the dream of statehood drifted further out of reach. “After 4 years of Hamas authority,”  Says Ghaboun, “People find the issues worse, The siege (the Israeli blockade of Gaza ), corruption, Hamas punishments.”  Therefore, absent of formal polling, the predictions are that Hamas will lose some ground if the vote is taken either in just the West Bank or in the Gaza strip as well.  “Hamas is not wise because they are always looking to make fights,” says Hamza Al Jawi, a university student in the West Bank .

Don’t take this to mean that Fatah will suddenly reclaim majority control, everyone will negotiate in good faith and we skip merrily along the road map to peace.  Hamas won in 2006 primarily because no one has forgotten the years when Fatah was in control and 100s of millions of dollars in international aide bought swimming pools and Mercedes for well placed government officials.  Palestinians have also watched as the top man in the party, Mahmoud Abbas, stood with President Obama calling for a freeze in West Bank settlement construction. Then Abbas stood helpless, alone and humiliated as Israel gobbled up more West Bank land building settlements. “The truth is, both (Hamas and Fatah) are no good for the Palestinian people,” Says Al Sawi.

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