Rule of Law or Law of Rule?

Jewish Light Editorial

No matter whether you’re leftist or rightist, whether you support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling coalition, whether you think a peaceful solution is viable or sustainable, here’s something that is very, very difficult to deny: Hamas is nowhere near ready to be a political party ruling a sovereign democratic nation. And this is why its members and its leader, Khaled Mashal, cringe at the prospects for peace.

Look at recent events involving the process as indicative of the difference between how a sovereign should act and how Hamas acts:

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• As the settlement moratorium in the West Bank was expiring, Mashal said that he and his followers would “continue to kill settlers on our land.” No discussion, no debate, just violence.

• When Jewish settlers were thought to set fire to a West Bank mosque this week, the response of the Israeli military was to call the conduct a “grave and serious incident.”

In other words, whether you agree with settlement of the West Bank by Israelis, the Jewish State will utilize the Rule of Law to apprehend, charge, try and convict lawbreakers. The Rule of Law is intended to provide a process by which the law enforcement system takes precedence over the arbitrary and subjective views and actions of individuals. It is one of democracy’s protections against tyranny, oppression and dictatorship.

But Hamas has its own different kind of law. It’s best called the Law of the Rule. Basically it states that the ruler gets to make up the law to fit his or her own interests, be they financial, political, religious, you name it. The ruler in such a system can with impugnity say, go ahead and kill at will, serving as judge, jury and executioner.

The Law of the Rule doesn’t just apply to criminal offenses, but to civil ones. Thus the ruling party, as Hamas is in Gaza, can not only build numerous smuggling tunnels and then actually export OUT of the territory the supposedly humanitarian imports it receives that it claims Israel is impeding. Clever tactic, to whine about not enough aid, then sell the aid to other nations. Good work if you can get it.

Wait, you say. Israeli leaders have been accused of graft and bad acts, yes? Look at former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he was implicated in some pretty bad acts indeed.

But that’s the point exactly – the Rule of Law resulted in Olmert being investigated at length for his alleged misdeeds. In Hamas’ case, the government itself is complicit in the illicit behavior – it’s ordering it, implementing it, and preventing any examination of it. In short, the Law of the Rule has been institutionalized into the skeleton of Gaza government.

The same cannot be uniformly said of the Palestinian Authority. Its leaders have taken seriously the prospect of creating legitimate and useful order within the West Bank. Oh, there is graft galore, make no mistake – but the government is making a sincere effort on a variety of fronts, most notably on safety and police work, to create an environment stable enough not only to foster personal security, but a legitimate business climate that can function internally and as a trading partner to Israel and other sovereigns.

This is not even remotely the case with Hamas. Mashal and Company would rather kill to prevent peace than meet to promote it. The PA, despite its utterly disingenuous arguments about pulling out of talks because of the end of the settlement freeze (remember that Abbas, Fayyad and Erekat sat in stasis for most of the 10 month freeze period and then only joined the talks based on urgent pleading from the United States and the Arab League), still sees that stable government and the Rule of Law can ultimately generate economic dividends.

Hamas sees its strength not enhanced by a solution, but diminished, because Mashal and his partners understand (they are not stupid, after all) that their kind of leadership works best in the absence of economic progress. Repression of the masses, freedom from education, lack of empowerment for girls and women, those are the tools that work for Hamas.

When and if Hamas can no longer point its dirty finger at Israel as the “evil occupier,” all that it will be left with is the burden of democratic leadership, which it’s not equipped to handle. It can’t allow that to happen, so it continues to promote murder, anarchy and the Law of the Rule.

And that is why, if there is ultimately peace, there will only be one word that describes Hamas, at least in its current iteration.