AS A QUARTERLY, the Journal of Palestine Studies naturally cannot respond rapidly to events. However, this issue of the journal offers several pieces of direct relevance to the pressing issues facing the Palestinian people in the wake of the January 2006 elections that gave Hamas a large majority in the Palestinian Council. Jamil Hilal’s article provides the context for Hamas’s decisive entrance into the Palestinian Authority (PA), as he traces the growth of popular support for Hamas in the occupied territories over the past decade. Graham Usher’s report on the elections gives us further analysis of Hamas’s rise and of the long-brewing crisis within Fatah and its failure fully to come to grips with the defeat handed to it by Hamas. Usher also explores the international response to the reality of a Hamas-governed PA, and its possible ramifications for Hamas and the broader Palestinian public.
The impact of the international response is now being felt, as Palestinian governance, state functions, and social services provided by the PA are on the point of collapse under Israeli, American, European, and UN pressures. These pressures so far exerted have disrupted arrangements for paying the salaries of some 150,000 PA government employees, who support at least five times that number of dependents. The overt American pressure against dealing with the new PA, and the threat of possible criminal or civil prosecutions in the United States, has led a broad range of NGOs and UN agencies to restrict their contacts not only with the PA but even with Palestinian NGOs.
Although the Palestine question has often been described as being in a critical phase, there may be no better time to start rethinking an effective Palestinian strategy for the future. In this issue we publish an open forum on strategy for Palestine edited by JPS Editorial Committee members George Bisharat and Beshara Doumani. The essays in this section address perennial issues faced by Palestinians, but the search for an effective Palestinian strategy—and hopefully the debate that these essays will stimulate—seems especially timely in view of the current crisis.
By coincidence, just as U.S. pressures on Hamas were mounting, a controversial article on the Israel lobby’s role in shaping U.S. Middle East policy by political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt appeared in the London Review of Books. Given the international debate (and domestic furor) it generated, JPS has decided to reprint this article, and a number of commentaries and critiques in response, in a special documents section. In light of the current situation facing the Palestinians, an open debate on U.S. policy in the region, including the role of the Israel lobby, is critical, if long overdue.