The Repercussions Of Bringing Former Terrorists To Mainstream PoliticsWritten by Angelique van Engelen
Today, in many countries’ political realities, tribalist and nationalist or globalist forces clash fiercely, undermining chances of peace and democracy. This is particularly topical in Middle East, where efforts by established leaderships to discourage armed conflict have reached a new phase, in which both Hezbollah and Hamas, organizations labeled ‘terrorist’ by US, are nudged to start thinking about participation in mainstream politics.
The number of countries in world at moment that are in some form of transition is higher than some ten years ago, and in some ways more efforts are made to resolve situations that threaten stability. And moves of all involved parties are not without major-league risks.
By finally addressing security issues by making a clean sweepthrough, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is slowly shifting into gear, starting clampdown on Palestinian insurgency that has long been called for. he has even told Hamas fighters publicly to give up their arms, This was a first for president who until now has been anything but clear on security issues. The Hamas leaders according to a report in London Asharq Al Awsat paper are reportedly planning to return to Gaza after Israelis have withdrawn.
The newspaper report detailed that leaders are likely to move their group’s political bureau to Gaza as soon as Israel transfers control over border crossings to Palestinian Authority. "When a militia turns into a political party, I believe issue of a need for arms becomes irrelevant," Abbas was quoted as saying. "There will be only one authority, one law and one legal [armed force]," according to recently elected Palestinian leader, who played down risks involved in operation, saying that this has happened many times before in history.
Hamas leaders however deemed it necessary to reiterate that they have no intention of disarming at all. "Our fingers will remain on rifle triggers until removal of occupation," Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said, according to Israeli Al Haaretz paper. Even though Hamas has participated in elections recently, Masri doubted that this means members are actually going to function as such. It is remarks like these that worry international community very much. US President George W. Bush has been said to be waiting with inviting Palestianian leader Abbas until he has got something of substance to report. Perhaps an invitation will finally be extended soon now. The Palestinian leader has installed a hardliner as new intelligence chief. Tareq Abu Rajab, who used to be deputy intelligence chief, is known to have played an important role in a crackdown on militant group Hamas. Hamas, which has participated in municipal elections already, might see next July’s municipal elections turn out in its favor. “Extrapolating from present point in time, Hamas I believe would gain between 30 and 50 percent in elections to Palestinian Legislative Council in July. Fateh is in total disarray and is searching for its lost identity”, said Matti Steinberg, an Israeli former security advisor to two heads of Israel General Security Service. “Hamas could register considerable gains in elections and possibly demand to play a role in next Palestinian Authority government”, according to Yossi Alpher, a former senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The gains that ‘party to be’ is likely to win are largely due to unhappiness of Palestine population with Fateh party, which has lost its identity more or less due to dysfunctioning of PA. This is echoed by Ghassan Khattib, Palestinian Authority minister of planning. “It is possible that Hamas, which so far maintains a fundamentalist ideological and extreme political position, will become a pragmatic movement if it has chance to be part of official politics, locally, regionally and internationally. The rhetoric of Hamas now reminds many of Fateh's rhetoric when it was treated by "legitimate powers" as an "illegal terrorist group". Fateh successfully worked out a trade-off. It was recognized and included in system in return for playing politics within parameters of international legality”, he says.
Just how democratic is the Middle East getting?Written by Angelique van Engelen
If democracy is any more up for a redefinition anywhere, now would be time and Middle East would be place. Events in Iraq and elections of Palestians had a contageous effect in other Middle Eastern countries too. For first time in at least 50 years, we see grassroots demand for updated versions of democracy in countries that have long been dominated by authoritarian regimes; Egyptians have been demanding to be allowed a multi party system, in Lebanon fall of a strongly Syrian influenced government went accompanied by street rallies and even in Syria, where street bans are most stringent, people going out on streets were unusually defyant. What are chances that grassroots demand for democracy will actually begin to intersect with supply from home governments? Go to any Arab country and read headlines of background sections of newspapers and you’ll surely find yourself immersed in series and series of studies on merits of true democracy, women’s rights as well as links between Islam and women’s rights. You could argue that news in Arab world is taken in a literal sense here but after sixth week, you’ll find yourself harboring less than democratic feelings for editors of papers for their lack of ingenuity. Slowly, however, all theorising is being replaced by real live examples of efforts to effect greater democracy in Middle Eastern countries. Not least to satisfaction of senior US officials including President Bush, who reiterated that time has come for Middle East to shrug off shackles of authoritarian regimes only last week. Both in policy circles and on ground, change is taking place, observers say. To descrIbe where two parties interlock would be to cover story of century no doubt. A lot has been said already about spread of democracy in Middle East, but events are finally beginning to provide poignancy that rhetoric went short of for decades and decades. Why euphoria? In Middle East, grassroots still really means grassroots. That is why ever since 9/11 attacks, think tanks (who have a reputation of providing most dependable information on societies they are active in)’ refocus from Israeli Palestinian piece efforts to ways of combating terrorism has been more on money than ever. After 9/11 attacks, many institutions overhauled their agendas and soon their work started to reflect exact concerns that were alive on policy making level. Topics included research into promotion of democracy in a way that endorses, rather than undermines stability; war on terrorism, along with diminution of extremism and radicalism as well as nation-building process in Iraq. What was taking place was a shift toward new realities. Initially, organizations were accused for totally missing out on any alarming signals that wider Arab societies might have issued ahead of 9/11 attacks, but this was soon forgotten. More pressing issues such as bigger scope for democracy in more Arab countries were gaining momentum as invasion of Iraq and effort to build a democracy in that ravaged country became a matter of western style branding of a seemingly revamped phenomenon. As Washington was showing itself ready to ‘entertain an unprecedented level of political risk and uncertainty’, idea of Arab autocracy was slowly beginning to become more and more old fashioned. All nice for who was buying into it when listening to hyper modern tv reports, but what did this work out on ground? How is US making good on its promise to actually effect greater and true democracy in Arab world. Good question. How do you go about effecting deeper democracies in countries which hardly have any other idea of ruling other than by what they deem decent autocratic approach.