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Friday, March 3, 2006
We Avert Our Eyes!
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:00 am

Hamas, before Moscow talks, says won’t recognize Israel:

“The issue of recognition is a done issue. We are not going to recognize Israel,” Mohammed Nazzal told reporters.

The whole thing borders on the childish: we can’t seeee you! We’re covering our ears and humming and so we can’t heeaar you!

In other news, Hamas refuses to recognize death and taxes, “because they annoy us.”

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Friday, February 24, 2006
Might Israel Target the Hamas PM?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:21 am

Via Reuters: Israel could target Palestinian PM-designate: Dichter.

On the one hand, I understand the argument here, and it is also true that the PM of the Palestinian Authority isn’t a head of state. However, this strikes me as a less than constructive way of dealing with the political reality of the moment.

If the ultimate goal is peace, then at some point the Israelis will have to deal with the Palestinians (and vice versa) whether they like it or not, and that is, at some point, going to mean dealing with people that one would rather jail than negotiate with. However, such is politics.

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, February 16, 2006
We Can But Hope
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:48 am

Via Reuters: Hamas nominates “pragmatist” PM

Many Palestinians see Haniyeh as someone rival factions and ultimately Israel could do business with.

May they be right.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2006
And the Cartoon Insanity Continues…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:59 pm

Via Reuters: Three more die in cartoon protests

The latest deaths in the town of Qalat, in southern Zabul province, brought the total number of Afghans killed in protests this week to 10. Twenty more were injured in Wednesday’s clash.

One wonders if former Taliban types are behind the agitation in Afghanistan…

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Hamas Willing to Talk to Israel (Sort of)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:40 am

Via the BBC: Hamas ‘ready to talk to Israel’

The political leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas has said the group is willing to take a serious step towards peace if Israel does the same.

Khaled Meshaal told the BBC that Hamas would not renounce violence, saying resisting an occupation was legal.

Not surprising about the statement on violence, Still, this is a positive step. While it is not a direct statement that they not longer seek the destruction of Israel, it is still a tacit recognition of that state. Although, I will grant, establishing new borders does not mean that the ultimate goal of the destruction of Israel wouldn’t remain a goal for Hamas. Still, it would seem that if we could ever get to the point of agreed upon borders and a Palestinian state in place that such conditions might ameleorate Hamas’ need for the destruction of Israel. Of course, we are a long way from that point.

If both parties are actually willing to negotiate in good faith (unlike, say, Arafat), then there are possibilities here. The Israelis are not willing to go all the way back to the 1967 borders, it is clear, if one looks at the security fence, that they are already willing to go quite a ways in that direction.

The acting Israeli PM said the following on the border question:

Ehud Olmert said Israel would be prepared to give up parts of the West Bank where most Palestinians were living.

Of course, the hitch is that Hamas wants Israel to withdraw to those borders first before talks can begin, That, of course, isn’t going to happen.

Still, this does represent a potential for movement on the issue, insofar as an interchange has started, even if it is one being conducted through the press.

Jerusalem will, of course, be a, if not the major point of contention.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
More on Hamas and Aid
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:48 am

Via the BBC:Hamas rejects ‘unfair’ aid demand

The EU, US, Russia and the UN called on Monday for Hamas to renounce violence and recognise Israel or face the prospect of cuts in global aid.

One Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, said the “unfair conditions” would endanger the well-being of Palestinians.

It’s a terrible thing when Group A gives hundreds of millions of dollars to Group B, and then has the gall to ask Group B to adhere to certain conditions to get the free money.

What is interesting is that there are probably ways that Hamas could at least attempt to comply by splitting into a political group and a militia group and then at least pretend that the two aren’t connected. This would likely not placate the US, but it might satisfy the EU. Of course, to this point, when it comes to Israel or the arms, Hamas doesn’t seem amenable to reasoned politics.

And, Saudi Arabia joins in the criticism of the Quartet:

Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians’ biggest Arab donor, also believes the international community are being “unreasonable”.

“The European Union insisted on having elections in Palestine, and this is the result of what they asked for,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in Malaysia.

“Now to come around, and say [they] don’t accept the will of the people that was expressed through democratic means, seems an unreasonable position to take.”

You have to love the Saudis lecturing the US and the EU on the topic of respect for democracy and the will of the people.

All of that aside, these are precarious issues, if the Palestinians can get aid from other sources, like Iran.

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Monday, January 30, 2006
EU and Aid to the PA
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:35 am

Along the lines of this post, we have the follwoing via Reuters: EU ready to continue Palestinian aid: draft text.

The story is quite brief, and bereft of details. It is unclear if the EU is willing to give aid now, and see how Hamas governs, or if they would withold aid until changes were evident:

He said the text also stated that the EU would expect the new Palestinian Legislative Council to back the creation of a government “committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution of the conflict with Israel.”
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Hamas and Aid
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:15 am

Via the AP/NYT: Rice Wants Nations to End Hamas Aid.

This is hardly a surprise, and, indeed, I am not sure that there is any other course of action to take until Hamas is willing to make the needed transition away from terrorism and is willing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Of course, the degree to which sufficient international agreement will emerge on the topic is another matter.

One would like to think that the stark realities of the situation, such at the Palestinians’ need for funds and the glaringly obvious fact that Israel isn’t going away, whether Hamas wants it destroyed or not, would eventually take hold in the minds of Hamas’ leadership and lead to some level of moderation. However, that amy be too much to hope for.

Here are some figures:

U.S. aid is a small part of the $1.6 billion annual budget of the Palestinian Authority.

About $1 billion comes from overseas donors — more than half of that from European nations. The rest is a mix of funds from international donor agencies, Arab and Asian governments, and the U.S., which gave $70 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority last year.

Separately, the U.S. spent $225 million for humanitarian projects through the U.S. Agency for International Development last year, and gave $88 million for refugee assistance.

Those figures bespeak of the lack of a functioning government and economy in the PA, given that such a substantial amount of the money has to comes form abroad. Further, it reminds ones of the massive amounts of cash that have flowed in, but that have then flowed out to Arafat and his cronies, rather than into the building of institutions and infrastructure.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction linked with Dealing With Hamas
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » EU and Aid to the PA linked with [...] EU and Aid to the PA By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:35 am Along the lines of this post, we have the follwoing via Reuters: EU ready to continue Palestinian aid: draft text. The story is [...]
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Election Watch: Israel
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:07 pm

Via the CSMIsraeli right may gain ground

Hamas’s ascendancy is liable to cast the unilateral pullbacks supported by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and by a majority of the Israeli public in a more troubling light. Meanwhile, the shock of a new Palestinian government run by a group formally committed to Israel’s destruction has offered the Israeli right and Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu new ammunition to stage an electoral comeback.

There is something ironic about Hamas, even indirectly, helping Netanyahu.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006
How Not to React to an Electoral Defeat
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:43 pm

Via Reuters: Gunmen storm Palestinian parliament

Firing into the air,
Fatah gunmen and police stormed Palestinian parliament buildings on Saturday in growing unrest after their long-dominant party’s crushing election defeat by Hamas Islamists.


Turmoil since the parliamentary election landslide has fueled fears of inter-Palestinian strife as Hamas tries to form a government and possibly take over security forces packed with Fatah loyalists at odds with the Islamic militants.

Thousands of gunmen from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah held protests across the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, many firing automatic rifles into the air.

They took over parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah for about 20 minutes, shouting demands from the roof before descending peacefully. Fatah militants and police also seized the parliament building in the Gaza Strip.

One of the signs of a maturing/mature democracy is when the party in power is able to graciously accept being the loser of an election (and, likewise, that the winner is able to win graciously). My finely trained political science sense tells me that almost anything that involves “thousands of gunmen” does not qualify as accepting defeat with grace. I am especially certain that taking over the parliament for twenty minutes with said guns isn’t winning with grace.

The irony here is that there has been all this hand-wringing over Hamas and now Fatah’s members are running amuck.

We are still early in this process, so conclusions cannot be reached, but this quite clearly isn’t the kind of behavior we want to see.

And an area to watch: the P.A. security forces:

In a message clearly aimed at Hamas, Palestinian Authority police commander Ala Hosni said the Islamist group would not be in charge of security forces because they came under the authority of President Abbas.

“The security institution is the only guarantee to prevent sedition and civil war. Civil war began in Somalia after the collapse of the army and security institutions,” Hosni said.

An armed political party is antithetical to proper state formation, let alone to democratic norms.

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Friday, January 27, 2006
More Analysis of the Hamas Win
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:42 pm

Abu Aardvark (political scientist Mark Lynch) has an interesting post on the Hamas win in the PA, Hamas: tests acoming, in which he notes two reason why these electoral results are important and interesting.

First, they test some of the recent premises of the Bush foreign policy, and provide significant challenges that the administration needs to confront:

It is an article of faith among virtually all Arabs and Muslims that in 1992 the United States and Europe green lighted the Algerian military coup after the Islamist FIS stood on the brink of electoral victory. This has been taken for a decade and a half as the definitive evidence that the American and European commitment to democracy was a hypocritical farce: democracy only if our allies won.

The Bush administration has talked a lot about democracy, about past mistakes in American policy towards democracy in the region, and so forth, but I think it’s fair to say that most Arabs remain deeply suspicious. Recent Arab elections haven’t really tested whether this has changed. Iraq under American military occupation is sui generis. In Egypt there was never any chance that the Muslim Brotherhood would be allowed to actually win, and even if it somehow had Mubarak would have remained in control over a relatively impotent Parliament. Jordan’s Parliamentary elections have been sufficiently gerrymandered (via electoral law) to ensure a strict ceiling on Islamist seats. Sudanese Islamists arrived on the back of a military coup.

How the US reacts to a democratically elected government that it does not like, and that brings with it the terrorist and fundamentalist baggage that Hamas does will say an awful lot about how genuine our support for democracy qua democracy actually is. Further, it tests various hypotheses that under-gird the Bush administration’s foreign policy of spreading democracy as a means of spreading peace and stability.

Indeed, the US has a long history of talking a good game on democracy, but of choosing (especially during the Cold War) reliable non-democratic allies over democratically elected left-leaning regimes (just ask the Guatemalans and Chileans, to name two examples). So, the Hamas victory tests the question of exactly how important fostering democracy really is to US policy.

Second, this situation will provide data of significance to help with some key questions that political scientists have been asking:

Hamas winning and presumably moving to form a government is the first real instance of an Islamist movement on the brink of winning power democratically since 1992. If they take power, we are going to see some major political science propositions put to the test: does power moderate or radicalize Islamist groups? Will they be willing and able to work with non-Islamist parties in a coalition? Will they use their democratic victory to abolish democracy? Will Islamist groups concentrate on the pragmatics of rule or resort to foreign policy grandstanding? Will they use their position of power to pursue terrorism? Will they be willing to set aside doctrine and work pragmatically with Israelis and Americans? Will they use government power to impose unpopular sharia rule over their people? Will they oppress Christian and non-Islamist Muslims? Most academic and policy analysis of these questions has remained counterfactual and hypothetical, since there have been no actual examples of an elected Islamist group in power. That could now change.

All very interesting and important questions. Clearly one case cannot answer any of them definitively, but it is a boon for the study of such issue to have such a case to examine.

Also, the Head Heeb has a lengthy, but interesting and informative, analysis of the elections and their implications.

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East, Elections | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » The magnitude of the Hamas sweep: The electoral system did it linked with [...] to call specific attention to the following: Mark Lynch at Abu Aardvark, Steven Taylor at PoliBlogger, and Jonathan Edelstein at The Head Heeb. Propagation: [...]
Speaking of Polls
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:21 am

Via Reuters: Almost half of Israelis say talk to Hamas: Poll

The opinion poll in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper showed 48 per cent of Israelis favoured talking to a Hamas-led Palestinian government, while 43 per cent were opposed.

The survey was conducted before preliminary election results were announced on Thursday.

To be honest, that is a higher number than I would have guessed. I wonder if the reality of having to deal with Hamas will drive that number up or down.

And btw: as this relates to my previous post-this poll has more validity than the eavesdropping polls I mentioned below, as information on this topic is quite high in the Israeli population, and the question is a straightforward one.

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Post-Election “Exchange”
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:00 am

Via Reuters: Hamas, Fatah gunmen exchange fire in Gaza

Hamas and Fatah gunmen exchanged fire in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the first such gun battle since the Islamic militant group crushed the long-dominant Palestinian faction in a parliamentary election, witnesses said.

What, since yesterday?

Well, at least the Dems and Reps don’t have “gunmen”…

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East, Elections | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

A Knight’s Blog » More P.A. linked with [...] preacher at Friday prayers. You don’t say! I’m shocked — SHOCKED! As the Sultan so aptly observed (relative to the line “the first such gun battle since the Islamic militant [...]
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Prelim Seat Totals in PA Elections
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:32 am

Via the BBC: Hamas secures stunning poll win

According to preliminary results, Hamas won 76 seats to 43 for the ruling Fatah party, giving them a majority in the 132-seat chamber. The turnout was 77%.

That’s 57.6% of the seats.

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East, Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

bRight & Early » A Quick Lunch Look-See linked with [...] ood of a filibuster. The landslide win by Hamas is being well covered by: The Jawa Report, Dr. Steven Taylor (Poliblog), James Joyer (OTB), Sister Toldjah, Stop The ACLU, Ed Morrissey (Captain's Quarte [...]
It isn’t War v. Peace in Palestine
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:08 am

As per the thesis of my previous post, I would note the following from Time: Why Rising Popularity Poses a Dilemma for Hamas

The first thing that people in the West Bank town of al-Bireh noticed about their new mayor was that he turned up for work on time. Previous mayors had often arrived late, if at all, but Omar Hamayel, 29, has a lot to do. Though al-Bireh is relatively wealthy compared to other towns in the West Bank, its streets are littered with garbage, streetlights and water pipes are broken and unemployment is high. “The fact that when the staff comes to work I am here and when they leave I am still here means that they see a sense of responsibility becoming a reality,” says Hamayel, a former chemistry teacher who was elected mayor a month ago. His employees have taken notice. “He’s at his desk by 8 a.m. and works through after the doors are closed and people leave,” says Ahmad Arqoub, a civil servant who has worked for the town since 1980. “He is really trying to make a good impression.”


Hamayel is a member of Hamas, the radical Islamic group that has actively pursued the violent overthrow of Israel, killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and rocket attacks and is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. But Hamas has also emerged as a major a political force, positioning itself as the chief rival to Fatah


In towns like al-Bireh, Hamas has built popular support by providing a disciplined alternative to Fatah, which is seen by many Palestinians as corrupt, inefficient and unable to run a garbage collection service, let alone negotiate with Israel. Hamas has long run its own medical clinics, schools and soup kitchens for the poor—mostly in the Gaza Strip, its stronghold. In last year’s local elections, Palestinian voters gravitated toward Hamas because of its reputation for having “members with a clean record,” as Mayor Hamayel puts it, in a reference to Fatah’s many corruption-tainted officials. Residents of towns where Hamas won control say they are now better run than they were under Fatah.

This is normal politics. Hamas has been able to be more effective in local governance, Fatah has been less than successful at national politics and there has been substantial corruption within Fatah dating back to Arafat. This isn’t a dichotomous choice between war and peace. It has more to do with the simple, yet very important things: trash pickup, elected officials who put in a days work and social services.

I am not declaring Hamas the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I am noting that proper analysis of this situation cannot overlook these factors.

I will say that the development, even incomplete development, of normal politics in the PA is a good thing for peace in the long-run. If daily life becomes more bearable in the PA, then the incentive for the population to see the destruction of Israel as their only hope for a better life will recede and the ability of the militants to be seen as a road to a better life will equally dim.

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East, Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Weapons of Mass Destruction linked with Hamas Rising
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