Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

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Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tiny Election has Global Impact

A little less than one million Palestinians votes were cast in their election. By comparison, one New York Senator, Charles Schumer, received over a million and three quarters votes in 2004. Not to say that Mr. Schumer's votes were not important, but the impact of the Palestinian election is having is incredible by comparison.

Israel and the United States have taken steps to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority after the election victory of Hamas. The EU is threatening to do the same if Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and abide by previous peace accords.

Some have characterized cutting off funds as a “hard line” response. Who in their right mind would even consider funding a group dedicated to killing you. It is the only option to take. Unfortunately, as is usually the case in the Middle East, it is a matter of choosing between bad options.

The only prospect for a reasonable outcome is for Hamas to make a fundamental shift from a terrorist organization with an avowed goal of destroying Israel, to a political entity that works peacefully to promote the future of the Palestinian people. That is an enormous leap, as the Hamas position is founded on the Muslim “duty” to reclaim the land that in 1948 created the state of Israel. Their terrorist attacks on Israel were intended to derail the Oslo Peace Accord, and it succeeded.

No other issue is more likely to fan the flames of the Muslim world than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This will be even more true under Hamas. The PLO under Arafat was primarily a secular movement. Hamas is a militant Jihadist movement. This will result in Islamic hatred burning brighter with every violent incident.

Since the escalation of a worldwide Jihad against the west, and our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, the stakes in the Israeli conflict have been raised ten fold. There are many Muslim extremists who would like nothing better than to see the powder keg ignited. Avoiding this will take walking a tight rope of applying economic pressure while developing a longer term solution that is at this point difficult to see. The saving element may be the moderating effect of internal Palestinian rivalry, which will likely ratchet up as their finances worsen.

In the past America could act as a moderator and broker for peace. The new role of Hamas makes that a very unlikely possibility. It shifts our position to an outright big stick defending Israel. That too is unfortunate in the sense of playing into Jihadist rhetoric. It seems as if this is a chess game which is drawing toward an end with fewer options and more dangerous consequences with each move.

If nothing else, the Palestinian election proved one thing. For good or ill, voting in elections does matter.

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