Willing and Able

Hamas' surprise at its own election victory should not fool anyone. Running the Palestinian Authority is not beyond its capability and does not scare it.

Since Hamas decided some six months ago to take part in the elections, it has been preparing itself to govern. Its experience in setting up welfare and education networks and founding an efficient and disciplined military wing, as well as organizational and ideological behavior codes, will serve for running Palestine.

Hamas can form the cabinet and run its ministries even without a partnership with Fatah or independent representatives. Moreover, it will inherit a PA with a coherent government structure and a mostly skilled civil service, so it will not have to build an administration from scratch.

Its situation is better, in this respect, than the PA's situation in the beginning, or of the new regimes being established in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hamas can enter the PA's offices and start cleaning the stables right away.

The two main problems facing its administration are persuading the security forces that their loyalty should not be to an organization but to the "State of Palestine" and formulating a reasonable budget to provide better services than those the Palestinians have received so far. Without a budget and financing sources, Hamas will not be able to pay wages to tens of thousands of policemen and security people, and could create a mutinous military front.

It is therefore an Israeli interest that the new authority has financing sources, so that the splinter organizations that dictate the agenda and act against Israel with no central control cease to exist. At the same time, Hamas will have to turn its military wing, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam, into an inseparable part of the national Palestinian security force.

In recent months, this wing has appeared to obey Hamas' political leadership. The question is whether Fatah will agree to subject its troops to the Hamas government's orders. This, too, will depend to a large extent on the soldiers' income source and Hamas' ability to persuade that it intends to be the government of all Palestinians, rather than run a regime of organizations and family loyalties.

Here, too, lies the dilemma of the ties with the European Union, the United States and other Arab states, mainly Jordan and Egypt, who control the border passes vital to the PA's economy. Without an internal policy that would calm down the PA's financiers, Hamas will not be able to carry out the administration missions.