February 18, 2006


Israel and Hamas quietly do business (BBC, 2/17/06)

As the Palestinian militant group Hamas prepares to assume control of the Palestinian Authority, BBC Middle East correspondent James Reynolds visits the West Bank town of Qalqilya, where Hamas officials and Israeli civil servants are already working together. [...]

We followed the town's acting mayor Hashem Masri up the stairs into the town hall.

He is standing in for the real mayor, who is serving time in an Israeli jail.

Every day Mr Masri faces a dilemma: his party Hamas does not recognise the state of Israel, but his town Qalqilya needs services from Israel in order to survive.

So he has to deal with the Jewish state. And it seems that the Jewish state has to deal with him.

Mr Masri says that he has twice met an employee of the Israeli state electricity company in order to sort out the town's electricity bill.

"I meet him in a car, here beside Qalqilya. He is responsible for Arabic services, we met for one-and-a-half hours," he explained.

Asked if it was a friendly meeting, he says: "Why not? It was civil, without any problem between him and I. The big problem is with the occupation here."

So, two men in a car - one an elected representative from Hamas and the other an Israeli civil servant.

A direct meeting like this is unusual. But, in general, indirect contact between Hamas mayors and Israel is not particularly uncommon.

Reality is a tough taskmaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2006 8:10 AM

Nobody elects a political party that they think is going to make their lives worse in the end. And no political party that actually does that gets re-elected in an honest vote.

Posted by: John at February 18, 2006 11:28 AM


Yes, but the fact remains that a society's utility function (which defines "better" and "worse") can be quite different from what we think it should be. Even OJ agrees with this, just read any of his posts about dieing Europe.

On the other hand, what about Detroit and Coleman Young? There's a guy who consistently won re-election while destroying a vibrant city.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 18, 2006 12:25 PM

Detroit follows the higher power rule in that if there's someone above you in state or national office that you can shove off the blame onto, you can find your way to remaining in power. This normally works when either the state or national offices are controlled by the other party; when eveything is in the hands of the same party and things still suck, you get Rudy Giuliani.

(Of course, Hamas could try and use this same tactic if they fail to reform themselves into a operating government and blame their failure on Israel or the United States, but blaming Israel for your problems at the same time you invite Israeli retaliation by continuing to support terrorist attacks doesn't figure to be a great long-term strategy, if the voters are paying the price for those attacks due to targeted IDF counterstrikes.)

Posted by: John at February 18, 2006 1:01 PM
if the voters are paying the price for those attacks due to targeted IDF counterstrikes
This is precisely why I have little expectation that Hamas will reform. I don't expect any price to be extracted by Israel or the USA (and certainly not Europe) for any attacks by Hamas or that happen under their watch. If I believed that some serious smackie would be laid down in response to Palestinian attacks (either counter strikes or funding halts), then I would consider such reform much more likely. It was always the premise of those pushing for a Palestinian state that this would happen, but I think it not likely. I was in the camp too, on the theory that at least responsibility would be clearer, even if nothing changed.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 18, 2006 6:07 PM

Hamas stopped strikes by its own forces, but probably can't control Islamic Jihad or al Aqsa. Israel will use targeted assassinations on them and Hamas will complain but not actually mind.

Posted by: oj at February 18, 2006 6:11 PM