The victory of the fundamentalist Hamas in the Palestinian elections will have far-reaching consequences for the region, some totally unexpected. Two aspects, however, are already visible.
The Hamas victory is, first and foremost, an indication of the total failure of the traditional Palestinian leadership to create a body politic. Palestine is not yet a state, but it is already a failed one.
Since the Oslo Accords of l993 between Israel and the PLO, the Palestinians enjoyed limited transitional autonomy. To be sure, the new Palestinian Authority (PA) took power under difficult conditions, but which new liberation movement does not face serious challenges when it finally must govern?
The PA had an opportunity to lay the institutional foundations for a functioning state. But, but instead of supplying the population with the necessary infrastructure – economic development, education, welfare, medical services, housing, and refugee rehabilitation – Yasser Arafat’s Fatah-led PA spent more than 70% of its meager budget on a dozen competing security and intelligence services, neglecting all other spheres of activity. It created what is called in Arabic a Mukhabarat (security services) state, very much like what is prevalent in almost all Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, republics and monarchies alike.