[Our guest blogger, Mara Rudman, is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Mara was a member of the National Democratic Institute international election observer delegation to the Palestinian legislative elections.] Watch Mara on Fox News:
On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that she was surprised by the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections:
I’ve asked [my staff] why nobody saw it coming. … It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse.
To those of us observing the lead-up to the election as well as election day, the results were predictable. The Palestinian people were registering their protest with Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians also were registering their despair with leaders who had brought few tangible results from years of efforts to build a Palestinian state. Those in the Bush administration engaged with average Palestinians would have picked this up long before election day.
The Bush administration now needs to fix its blind spot if it hopes to help the Palestinian people move ahead.
President Bush was right to point out in his press conference last week that the number one priority right now is to help President Abbas remain as president and to leverage his ability to get Hamas to live up to its Reform and Change agenda.
But if that is the U.S. desired objective, we should consider the best route to achieve it. Generally, in this region, screaming our demands loudly and proclaiming that we will take home all our marbles if we don’t get our way has won us neither friends nor led us to our set goals. We hope that President Bush may be trying to take a more careful path at this point. Hopefully it’s not too little too late.
Among the steps he and future policymakers should consider: we need to develop better communication with, and start listening more intently to, the voices of future Palestinian leaders. Some are committed to building a state with structures of governance, opportunity, and rule of law. Others would rule by less savory means.
This election should teach us that we cannot always divide these individuals into neat categories of party allegiance.
The Palestinian people are desperately seeking a government that offers hope to children who aspire for a better future in a society. The Bush administration should resist its too often knee-jerk reactive tendencies, which thus far it seems to have done.
(Full transcript here.)