Sharansky on Democracy: Form and Substance

Natan Sharansky's splendid column in the LA Times explains the Israeli neoconservative's criticisms of the Bush Administration's approach to democracy.
I submitted a plan to Ariel Sharon in April 2002 for a political process that would culminate in the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel. At the time, no one was thinking seriously about peace because, after the worst month of terror attacks in Israel's history, we had launched a large-scale military operation to root out the infrastructure of terrorism in the West Bank.

I believed, however, that the crisis presented an opportunity to begin a different kind of political process, one that would link the peace process to the development of a free society for Palestinians. I had argued for many years that peace and security could be achieved only by linking international legitimacy, territorial concessions and financial assistance for a new Palestinian regime to its commitment to building a free society.

Despite my faith in "democracy," I was under no illusion that elections should be held immediately. Over the previous decade, Palestinian society had become one of the most poisoned and fanatical on Earth. Day after day, on television and radio, in newspapers and schools, a generation of Palestinians had been subjected to the most vicious incitement by their own leaders. The only "right" that seemed to be upheld within Palestinian areas was the right of everyone to bear arms.

In such conditions of fear, intimidation and indoctrination, holding snap elections would have been an act of the utmost irresponsibility.

The recent election of Hamas is the fruit of a policy that focused on the form of democracy (elections) rather than its substance (building and protecting a free society). ...

Read the whole thing.