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In light of the recent failure by military intelligence, the secret service and a myriad of political analysts alike to predict Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections, a new authority has stepped up to take the pulse of both the Israeli and Palestinian streets - taxi drivers.
According to well-established myth, taxi drivers in Israel represent the quintessential authority, engaging in dozens of conversations daily with people from across the political spectrum.
Amnon Ben Nachum has lived in Jerusalem his entire life, and despite his innate skepticism, believes that, unlike Fatah, Hamas may finally usher peace into the region. Ben Nachum believes that this is represented in the number of Palestinians who voted for Hamas: "70 percent of the Palestinian people is a majority - peace you do with a majority."
Ben Nachum criticized the approach of both the Israeli government and the international community who declared they will neither negotiate with, nor provide financial aid to, Hamas, a terrorist organization. "Hamas is new, we must have patience, I think one month, two months, to see what is happening inside Palestine. Israel must see what happens, we must give them money, water, electricity," said Ben Nachum. "I hear on the radio nobody wants to give them anything, if the world doesn't want to give them anything, we [Israel] eat the problem."
Not surprisingly, not everyone seems as hopeful as Ben Nachum. Menachem, another Jerusalem native who declined to give his last name, was not afraid of the Hamas victory, although he termed it "very bad." "Hamas doesn't want peace, they want to destroy Israel... they want war," he said.
In contrast to Jewish-Israeli taxi drivers, who were more than willing to share their thoughts, Israeli-Arab drivers tended to be more reticent. Chezy, a Jewish-Israeli taxi driver who also declined to give his last name, explained how he understands the Arab-Israeli reluctance to share their political views. "They don't feel it convenient to speak about," he said.
"They work with us [Jewish-Israelis], they... [consider] themselves Israeli, they live in East Jerusalem, they... [didn't] participate in [the] elections, and they feel... afraid Hamas will [take away their] identity cards... their national security, and so on, they are very afraid," Chezy relayed.
One Arab-Israeli taxi driver, Nabil, attributed Hamas's victory to its explicit religious imperative. Fed up with Fatah corruption, many of Nabil's friends voted for Hamas because, as Nabil said, they believe that as "religious people [Hamas] can't steal or make bad things," adding, "As religious people, yes we [Palestinians] trust them [Hamas]."
He emphasized that Palestinians are desperate for change, and hope that electing Hamas, social and political change will ensue. Nabil stated that Fatah leadership abided by "their own rules and didn't look to the people on the streets, and for this they [Palestinians] left them and had taken another way, which is the religious one."
Nabil expressed no concern over Hamas's status as a terrorist organization. "My opinion is that they are fighting for their country... my opinion says they are people fighting to defend their country. I am hopeful."