Thursday, January 26, 2006

Those Demned Exit Polls


So when I went to bed last night, Fatah had won the Palestinian election. True, their victory margin had narrowed the later at night it got, but what a shock to wake up and find Hamas has suddenly won and apparently by a substantial margin. It suggests that people told the exit pollers, not the truth, but what they thought the exit pollers wanted to hear.

I guess it's a bit like being a Democrat in 2004 - the ones who believes the Florida exit polls, or a Laborite in 1995, after the Rabin assassination, when Israelis went to bed assured of a Labor victory and woke up with Likud in charge.

So those territory concession speeches about the West Bank that Ehud Olmert has been spouting lately – and about which I've been having uncomfortable feelings - they sure are not going to go over well now. With Hamas having just won the majority in Palestine.

It looks like Benjamin Netanyahu just got a boost from the Palestinians, just like he did last time, when he came to power after the glut of bombings that followed after the "peace" of Oslo.

Belmont Club has similar thoughts and twins this win with the nuclear situation in Iran to suggest that traditional thinking and institutions are not going to solve this problem.

But in the comments to his post, he adds that the victory of Hamas is also a defeat for Fatah and their 15 years of financial and political corruption. All those billions spent to feather the nest of Arafat and his followers. Objectively speaking, it is hard to object to that from the Palestinian POV.

And like with Ahmadinejad, our political interlocuter has now become crystal clear in its intent. There is a benefit with that as well. Israelly Cool and Roger Simon agree. As does Cliff May at the Corner:
I want to suggest a somewhat contrarian view (compared to what most of the media is saying) of the apparent Hamas victory. It’s distressing, to be sure, but also clarifying.

Why it’s distressing is obvious: Palestinians have voted for a Militant Islamist terrorist organization with close ties to the mullahs of Iran. True, they may have done so out of frustration with Fatah, a hopelessly corrupt political machine--and one that also, by the way, sponsors terrorism. Nevertheless, the vote suggests that most Palestinians are not seriously interested in achieving peace with Israel.

But here’s why it’s also clarifying: In the past, when there were terrorist attacks against Israel, Yassir Arafat could denounce them in English in the morning and celebrate them in Arabic in the afternoon. Hamas will not have that luxury.

Henceforth, Israeli leaders should respond to every terrorist attack not as though it were a crime committed by a few isolated fanatics that the Palestinian Authority somehow did not manage to stop in time. Henceforth, Israeli leaders should respond to terrorist attacks as acts of war. In other words, their response should be forceful. It should make it clear that those who inflict death and destruction will pay a very steep price.

In such a circumstance, will Palestinians demand that Hamas at least seek a truce to avoid further suffering? Or will they change the government at the next opportunity? Or will Palestinians urge their Hamas leaders to continue to fight until one side or the other is soundly defeated?


It will be far harder, on the face of it, for the Europeans, say, to shirk off this rhetoric as unserious, though given time I'm sure we'll see not only that but the statement of moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas as well all too soon.

Well, we always knew that this coming Israeli election would be heavily influenced by the Palestinian one, and by whatever happened in Gaza - if it continued to implode or not. Well, Gaza has been a bit quieter since Sharon had his stroke, so, it is not surprising, perhaps, that the reverberation now would be even stronger the other way.

Apparently not only the exit polls, but Israeli Intelligence as well failed to predict Hamas victory.

Fatah and Hamas are already clashing in Ramallah, at the Palestinian parliament.

UPDATES will follow.

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