Obviously, we're not talking about Iraq. Iraq will have something called an election in precisely three weeks' time, but "democracy" implies something different from the Kurdish/Shiite self-governance referendum and Sunni boycott/aremed assaults with a preposterous "national list" system (used only in "I" countries Italy and Israel, both notorious for a lot of fringe parties and wildly complex parliamentary maneuverings and frequent failed governments; it means literally that if party A gets X% of the national vote, it gets X% of the parliamentary seats; not ideal where an ethnic group of around 20% of the country probably can't vote because of extreme violence because WE CAN'T PROVIDE ANYTHING RESEMBLING ADEQUATE SECURITY).
Sorry. I was actually talking about Palestine, where Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas garnered around 65% of the vote and declared victory in the post-Arafat presidential election. BTW: international observers declared the election pretty clean by international standards, minimal interference from Israel, although there was a low turnout doubtless helped by a Hamas boycott.
Unlike the time when Israel deliberately undermined Abbas (a/k/a Abu Mazen) when he was Arafat's prime minister, Israel will now lose any semblance of moral high ground if it tries undermine an actual democratically elected Palestinian leader who isn't Arafat, and who, by nature, and compared to everyone else out there, is pretty freaking conciliatory towards Israel.
This is really an opportunity. Israel will now have to decide what it wants to be: a nation hell-bent on stealing land and pissing on international law (not to mention its 3 or 4 million Arab house guests), or a modern state whose citizens don't have to live in perpetual existential angst everytime they get on a bus or go out for pizza. To be honest, I'm not optimistic. But for a rare change, both the bogeyman spectre and actual hindrance to peace in the living, breathing
form of Yasir Arafat has been laid to rest. Sharon can't blame Arafat for any failures of imagnation now. Indeed, Israel can now recognize that with Arafat thankfully gone, they have the opportunity to create a viable Palestinian state, and help it develop into a peaceful and prosperous one. Abbas would, if given proper backing, help weed out the insane violence of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and others that Arafat was counting on to help his protection rackets. The vicious cycle CAN be broken... will it is another matter.
Well, at least some of the Palestinian people have spoken loudly and optimistically today. I hope their confidence in democracy will be rewarded.