Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hamas' biggest mistake yet

Hamas has made an enormous mistake in appointing a wanted militant as head of a new security force in the Palestinian territories.

The new force will add yet another layer of security forces to the already bloated forces supposedly under charge of the Palestinian Authority.

The move is part of an intense power struggle within the PA. Fatah, the former ruling party, still controls the security forces, most of whom are from within Fatah and other parties in the Palestine Liberation Organization. Not only they, but also President Abbas have resisted efforts by Hamas to exert its control over the security forces.

So instead of working for developing an approach that would strengthen the idea of the government as an institution that controls security forces, Hamas has taken a shortcut and will set up a new rival force, made up of its own loyalists.

Instead of institutional reform, Hamas has opted to create yet another little militia. This will greatly increase tensions within the territories and increases the liklihood that there will be armed clashes between members of the different forces.

Instead of trying to find ways to pay the thousands of unpaid police and other security forces members, some of whom are leading the armed chaos in the territories, Hamas has opted to set up a rival force, which will only increase the financial burden on the already bankrupt and indebted PA.

With this move Hamas shows it is not going to be any different from Fatah on the issue of security. Instead of building institutions and working to develop a democratic process, they are taking the road of setting up rival militias. This is in large part why Palestinian security forces are currently such a disaster. Hamas is going for a quick and easy fix, and the results are likely to be disasterous.

The appointment of a known militant is also one of the politically more stupid moves Hamas has made recently. I wrote earlier of the need for Israel to find a way to accomodate Hamas pragmatists. But Hamas also needs to find a better way combat charges that it is a terrorist government and to reach out to the secular center. This new appointment has the opposite effect.


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