By Ricardo Israel Zipper (for Safe Democracy)

Ricardo Israel Z. explains how, paradoxically, Israel will be the one to benefit from Hamas’ victory of the Palestinian elections, and that among those who will suffer most from an ever-imminent Palestinian civil war will be Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian cause itself. Ricardo Israel Z. believes that the new international scenario created by Hamas’ extremism will permit Israel to make decisions that before were unviable: such as carrying forward a unilateral withdrawal from a good part of the West Bank, and establishing the borders of a Palestinian nation.

Ricardo Israel Z. is a lawyer and a political scientist. He holds a PhD and a masters degree in Political Science from the University of Essex and is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Chile. He leads the International Center for the Quality of Democracy as well as the School of Law and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Chile. He is the President of the Army Forces and Society Committee at the World Political Science Association. He has published dozens of books and essays, which have been translated into many different languages, and is a director and commentator on international Radio and TV shows about politics.

WHILE IT MAY SEEM COUNTERINTUITIVE, IN TERMS OF DIPLOMACY the winner of the Palestinian elections was not Hamas, but Israel. In fact, until very recently Israel had serious problems in its relations with Europe and Ariel Sharon was considered a serious obstacle to peace.

But the situation began to change with the unilateral pullout from Gaza, and above all, with the seamless democratic elections that rocketed Hamas into power in the Palestinian government.


Since the elections, Hamas has become increasingly isolated not only from the European Union, but from many Arab countries wary of its extremist proposals; Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel as a legitimate state, repudiates the renunciation of terrorism in its call for the destruction of Israel, and opposes many of the Palestinian Authority’s international agreements, including the very ones that permitted them to be elected into government. Iran appears to be the only country completely committed to the support of the Palestinian government under Hamas.

What was once a problem of resources transformed itself into the looming threat of civil war following Hamas’ decision to turn its militias into security forces similar to the Palestinian police. The act was taken as a direct challenge of the ever-weakening President Abbas, who finds himself every day with less power.

Abbas hopes to use the calling of a referendum as a peaceful means of resolving a crisis that has been seen countless times before (above all in Africa) in which many weapons find their way into many hands. The text of the referendum would be one written down by Palestinian leaders who are currently prisoners in Israeli jails.

The current conflict between Palestinians is reminiscent of what happened in the 60’s and 70’s in the refugee camps. The difference is that the division then was not between secular and fundamentalist standpoints, but rather between Al Fatah and its contenders at the time: Marxist and Leninist groups now almost completely nonexistent.

If Palestine were to go through a period preceding a civil war, the country that would be most effected would not be Israel thanks to its military power, but the neighboring countries of Egypt and Jordan, who have had to face fundamentalist groups for decades.