One of the fundamental decisions of any government is the honored dilemma on how to allocate government resources. The classic description of defense vs. social programs is the one that draws the most ideological fire, with it being boiled down into the catchy phrase “guns vs. butter.” Traditionally, conservatives favor defense, seeing the external threats as more important. Liberals tend to support the social side of the equation, favoring government expenditures on such things as education, welfare, and the like. (Most often expended on bureaucracies to “manage” the issue than actually address the problems, but I digress.)
For most of its history, the terrorist group Hamas has seen itself as a quasi-government. Its charter calls for the creation of an Islamist state in Palestine, and naturally it sees itself as being that government. And at some point a Palestinian terrorist had a good idea, and a portion of Hamas’ budget has gone into “butter” programs — hospitals, schools, and charities. A fairly insignificant portion, overall, compared to the money and effort put towards terrorism, but enough to sway some hearts and minds. They also constructed the fiction of having “militant” and “political” wings (a notion I believe they stole from the Irish), drawing a fictional wall between the good cops and the bad cops. This allowed people to support Hamas while not having to admit they were supporting terrorism.
Then Hamas went and did the unthinkable: they ran in elections, and actually won. They intended to win enough seats to give Fatah headaches, to put pressure on them, to hold major influence over the actions of the Palestinian Authority. Since Fatah would still nominally hold the reins of power, there would be plausible deniability when Hamas continued its terrorist ways.
But that didn’t work. Hamas openly won a solid majority of the seats in the legislature, and found themselves holding the entire bag. There would be no Fatah skirts to hide behind; the Palestinian people had actually listened to Hamas far better than Hamas intended — or even wanted.
Most governments of the world, especially the ones who have been giving enormous amounts of aid to the Palestinian Authority, have been saying for years that Hamas is a terrorist organization (well, duh) and that they will not give aid to terrorist organizations. Right up through the elections, those nations repeatedly said that that policy will not change just because Hamas might win an election.
Apparently a lot of people didn’t believe that the West would actually keep that pledge. (Two quick asides: yes, I said the West. The Palestinians have gotten little more than lip service in “support” from their Arab and Muslim brethren; the vast majority of their support comes from the West. And secondly, in the Palestinians’ defense, the notion of the West making and keeping such a pledge doesn’t hold up well under historical scrutiny.)
Now, it’s four months since the elections, and the West kept its word: no money has been given to Hamas. And they are feeling the pinch. Public employees (a staggering 25% of the work force — a notion horrifying to libertarians, the stuff of wet dreams to liberals) haven’t been paid in months. The economy, never that sturdy to begin with, is in a shambles. And a top Palestinian minister says that someone broke into his hotel room in Kuwait and stole almost half a million dollars in cash.
In the midst of this, the violence in the Territories hasn’t abated. In fact, it’s gotten worse. There’s been yet another suicide bombing (an art form Hamas perfected, adding such innovations as rat poison and enhanced shrapnel, as well as using retarded people as their weapons), and Hamas immediately came out and said that they will NOT condemn it. In fact, the official government response was, boiled down, “they were asking for it.”
Also, the long-expected civil war between Hamas and Fatah has shown signs of flaring up. There have been several open battles between them recently. And Israel recently captured over a ton of military-grade explosives that Palestinians were attempting to smuggle into Israel.
In the meantime, Hamas is denouncing the loss of international support (translation: money), saying that the West is starving the Palestinian people, “punishing” them for exercising their democratic right to vote.
So, let me see if I can sum up the Hamas position: they have plenty of money for guns, but none for butter. And they expect the West to keep supplying the Palestinian people with butter, while Hamas uses those guns to continue their goal (clearly spelled out in their charter): the extermination of the nation of Israel and the establishment of an Islamist state on its ashes.
And, damn us, that’s probably what’s going to happen. In fact, several European nations are already doing that.
The smart thing, the principled thing, the right thing would be to simply let Hamas lie in the bed they have made. They want to put all their resources into weapons and continue to wage their war against Israel? Fine. Let them feed on bullets, dine on explosives, fill their bellies with rat poison. And when Israel finally decides to recognize Hamas as the legitimate government of Palestine and return their declaration of war with the full fury of a modern nation-state, it’s only what Hamas has said they want. But that ain’t gonna happen.
Lenin once famously said that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” He was nowhere near optimistic enough — we’re giving away the rope, already conveniently tied into a noose.