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 Friday, January 27, 2006

Palestinian Election: Democracy Brings HAMAS to Power. Israel Faces Dilemma

  The Islamic militant group Hamas says it has won the Palestinian parliamentary election. The Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted that early indications suggested Fatah had lost the election.

Voter sentiment was the same: It's time to teach the ruling Fatah party a lesson. Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat and led today by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, is widely viewed as corrupt and incompetent.

Around a third of all Palestinian voters now support HAMAS, widely viewed among Palestinians as a vehicle for clean and competent government.

HAMAS has gained popularity among Palestinians not only for its attacks on Israelis during a 5-year uprising but also for its charity network and its corruption-free image. Read here for more

The election is undoubtedly a huge victory for Palestinian democracy because it has ended the near monopoly of Fatah over political life in Palestinian society for the best part of 50 years.

Washington and the EU, which have pressured the Palestinians to hold democratic elections, cannot now object to the outcome of the elections without laying themselves open to charges of hypocrisy.

Moreover, whoever runs the Palestinian Authority has to liaise Israeli officials to deal with issues such as water and power supplies.

Hamas cannot have it both ways - it cannot be in government and at the same time refuse to deal with Israel.

The next few days and weeks will show whether Hamas can demonstrate the maturity needed to deal with a uniquely complex political situation. Read here for more

HAMAS leader Mahmoud Zahar today said he was ready to maintain a ceasefire with Israel forged last February if Israel does likewise, but that the Islamic group will respond to Israeli attacks.

If they are going to continue commitment to what is called quietness, then we will continue,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press Television News. “But if not, then I think we will have no option, but to protect our people and our land.”

The impromptu interview took place in the garden of Zahar’s Gaza City home, where he received party officials and other well-wishers who came to congratulate him on the militant Islamic group’s apparent victory in Wednesday’s Palestinian general election. There was no sign of armed guards at the scene.Read here for more

Israel called on the European Union on Thursday to take a firm stance against the establishment of what it called a "terrorist government" after the Islamic militant group Hamas won a Palestinian election. Read here for more

The Swiss Foreign Ministry welcomed the smooth running of the elections and in a statement on Thursday evening called on all parties to renounce violence and respect the right of law.

The ministry described the result as having "groundbreaking meaning" and expressed the hope that the future Palestinian cabinet would pursue policies that accommodated the interests of all Palestinians.

Palestinian and Israeli groups in Switzerland say the victory of radical Islamic group, Hamas, in the Palestinian elections, was to be expected.

There was no surprise either on the part of Yves Kugelmann, the editor of Swiss Jewish weekly newspaper Tachles. Although the result was uncomfortable for Israel, the country would have to deal with it, he said:

"The Israeli side cannot ignore the result.

The Palestinians have voted in democratic elections and elected HAMAS, and not because it's a terrorist organisation.

I think observers and the international community must take this result seriously."

Read here for more

Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now facing a dilemma after a stunning victory ofthe Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the Palestinian legislative elections, local daily newspaper Ha'aretz said in a analysis on Thursday.

On one hand, if Olmert shows signs of softening attitude toward Hamas, Olmert and the centrist Kadima party, which was formed by stricken Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in late November and currently under the leadership of Olmert, might have a hard time in continuing to carry out the party's policy on the Palestinians,the analysis was quoted as saying.

Most likely, ahead of the March 28 general elections, Olmert's political rival conservative Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu would base Likud's campaign on the claim that the Gaza pullout was a reward for Hamas, it added.

The analysis, meanwhile, noted that "if Olmert threatens to sever ties with the Palestinians, boycott them, further delay funds owed to them or impose any other punishment," he would face increasing international pressure to honor the legitimate and democratic Palestinian election results. Read here for more

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