The Hamas Moment

Hamas’s capture of the Gaza Strip has created, along with Iran, a second radical Islamist state in the Middle East. The region, probably the Arab-Israeli conflict, and certainly the Palestinian movement, will never be the same.

Fatah’s defeat in Gaza is not due to American foreign policy, Israel, or anyone but Fatah itself. It is Yasir Arafat’s ultimate legacy, for he encouraged not only terrorist violence against Israel, but also anarchy and corruption within his own organization.

Most importantly, Arafat failed to resolve the conflict or give his people an alternative vision to one of extreme radicalism and endless fighting. By rejecting a compromise peace solution in 2000 that would have created an independent Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem and $23 billion in international aid, Arafat made clear that there would be no alternative, moderate scenario for resolving the Palestinians’ problems.

It was clear before the January 2006 elections that Hamas was heading toward a victory. Under weak leadership, Fatah did nothing to address its deep-seated divisions and corruption. Competing Fatah candidates split the vote, ensuring that Hamas nominees won. Even after the defeat, Fatah implemented not a single reform or leadership change. Its leaders squabbled, regarding themselves as the sole possible rulers and engaging in wishful thinking that some external factor would hand them whatever they wanted.