We're seeing some interesting brinkmanship in Palestine. President Abbas has announced new parliamentary elections which Hamas, the current majority in parliament, has vowed to boycott. Tony Blair is cheering Abbas on.
Hamas has no good move but to boycott the election. If they run and win, we're back to an untenable square one. Abbas needs Hamas to vow to play nice with Israel in order to get US and European help, and Hamas is genetically incapable of doing so. Like the Croc in Pearls Before Swine, their primary platform is Keel Joos, which they seem unlikely to alter.
If they run and lose, they lose street cred. If they run and win, they don't get to govern. Why bother running?
Hamas is more than just a terrorist machine; they also have a formidable charitable arm that buys support on the street. They don't need to be in government to have support. In fact, a impotent government gives them more power, for their charity doesn't have to compete with government aid.
Their next move is to make life miserable for Abbas and whoever wins the Hamas-free elections. If they can keep Abbas from taking control and getting significant US aid, they can become a de-facto government on-the-street without a capital that the IDF can bomb or raid. If they can keep Abbas from getting effective control, then Hamas can run in the next presidential election and win, or merely seize power as the Abbas government becomes a non-entity.
If Abbas is going to run an effective government that can become a coherent Palestinian government that can co-exist with Israel, some sort of civil war with Hamas seems likely. The problem is, I don't like Abbas' chances right now. A Hamas-Fatah civil war will be very messy and has a high probability of Hamas winning.
If Hamas wins, the Palestinian Civil war merely becomes the semi-final for an ultimate IDF-Hamas final, with the strong possibility that the US might weigh in with Israel if Hamas is getting significant outside help.
If Abbas wins, we'll have a shot at a two-state solution that a center-left Israeli government could live with. The question remains whether such a government will be around when the dust settles; we could very well see a center-right hawkish government in a year or so.
We live in interesting times.