Change course

December 22, 2006

When Palestinian militants aren't firing at one another, they're lobbing rockets across the border into Israel. In an attack Wednesday, however, a rocket meant for Israel struck a Palestinian house in the Gaza Strip and injured a child. It didn't matter that supporters of the Islamic militant group Hamas and forces aligned with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had warily agreed to a cease-fire to avert a potential civil war. Violence, whether directed inward or outward, keeps Palestinians from what they need to focus on - the paralysis of the Hamas-led government and its consequences.

After numerous attempts to forge a coalition government with Hamas, Mr. Abbas had enough. He called for new national elections, a move that democratically elected Hamas officials challenged as an illegal usurpation of their right to govern. But Hamas hasn't governed since it defeated Mr. Abbas' Fatah group in elections earlier this year. Its refusal to acknowledge Israel's right to exist has cost it millions in international aid and tax receipts held by Israel, paralyzing the bureaucracy and starving its citizenry. The militant group's leaders are calling the shots from Damascus; they aren't living in the impoverished state of many Palestinians. Their failure to compromise their anti-Israel ideology has resulted in a failed government.

That said, the United States and its allies haven't helped Mr. Abbas gain some leverage over his opponents. Instead, their withholding of funds to a group designated a terrorist organization has deprived many Palestinians of their ability to properly care for their families. Deprivation changes minds.

A recent poll by the respected Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research shows that a majority of Palestinians favor new presidential and parliamentary elections. They recognize what the Hamas-led government can't - it's time for a change.

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