Thursday will mark a year since the democratic elections in Palestine that brought Hamas to power – a year since the shock and frustration were replaced by a policy of sanctions that has pushed the Palestinian Authority to the brink of civil war and warfare in the streets of Gaza. The accomplishments of this policy resemble those of the international sanctions policy imposed on Iraq: It has not deposed the Hamas government, Qassam rockets continued to land in Israel and it did not serve as an alternative for the need for IDF action. Even worse, the Palestinians’ effort to extricate themselves from the sanctions has given new power brokers – Syria and Iran – a basis of support in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not only Ismail Haniyeh, the outcast, heeds the directives of Khaled Meshal, Iran and Syria, but Mahmoud Abbas, the friend, is also compelled to accept Damascus’ “recommendation” to meet with Meshal.
The Israeli assumption that it would be enough to apply heavy economic pressure and arrest members of the Palestinian parliament and government ministers to overturn the election results, turned out, as expected, to be mistaken. Like in Iraq, which existed for 13 years under a regime of sanctions, or Libya, which endured 11 years of sanctions, the citizenry suffers and barely survives, yet does not take to the streets to protest against the failures of the government that represents it. Standing steadfast against sanctions imposed by an occupier is still considered national heroism. Donations, waiving salaries and a great deal of voluntary activity somehow manage to keep the health and education systems in operation. They are continuing to teach at the universities and even artistic work has not come to a halt.