I am not about to comment here about the current situation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. It is too far from my areas of either professional or lay expertise, nor do I want the virtual orchard to be overgrown with the kind of noxious weeds that I see elsewhere in blog comment threads.
The purpose of this planting is to offer a reminder that we are almost at three years since the Palestinian legislative election won by Hamas, then running as a political party with the promising and innocuous sounding name, Change and Reform. It is often said that Hamas won that election, and of course it did: a plurality of the votes, nearly 3/5 of the seats, and an appointment by the previously elected President, Mahmoud Abbas (of Fatah), to lead the first post-election cabinet.*
What is usually overlooked in media or blog reflections on the election is that it was a narrow victory in votes (about three percentage points) and that it was a poorly designed electoral system that translated Hamas’s 44.5% (of the party-list vote) into a large legislative majority.
It is worth bearing in mind as we watch Israeli-Palestinian relations unfold in the coming months and years that the Palestinian electorate did not give Hamas an overwhelming victory, the electoral system did.
Any discussion of three-year-old election results given all that has happened since, and all that is happening now, may seem somewhat beside the point. But the point is to correct the record about Hamas’s actual electoral strength during the one time it was tested. Now it is being tested in a different way. As is Israel, in the midst, as it was three years ago as well, of its own election campaign.
* The Palestinian institutional framework is a president-parliamentary system, and thus the subsequent dismissal of the Hamas government by the president was fully within the rights of the latter (though Hamas argued otherwise). As far as I know, this was the only case of cohabitation ever in a president-parliamentary system (as opposed to premier-presidential systems, where cohabitation occurs from time to time). And, even if we ignore all the other sources of conflict between Fatah and Hamas, it had the result one would predict from the institutional framework: intra-executive conflict ultimately resulted in the president dismissing the prime minister.
UPDATE: Robert Elgie corrects the claim of this footnote in a comment. Peer review is so valuable!