In January 2006, Hamas was victorious in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. This development was met with consternation from the government of Israel, many western governments, and the United States government in particular. The Quartet on the Middle East, comprised of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations, viewed Hamas’ electoral victory through the lens of terrorism and took a correspondingly hard line, issuing an ultimatum and imposing sanctions for non-compliance. The Quartet’s strategy towards Hamas indicates that they consider the movement to be what Stedman terms a ‘total spoiler’ –an ideological rigid organization that sees the world in all-or-nothing terms and consequently cannot be included in a successful peace process. In this paper, I argue that the assessment of Hamas as a total spoiler is erroneous, and in fact, the designation ‘limited spoiler,’ as defined by Stedman is actually more appropriate.
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