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The PA shows it's true face by opting for terror group Hamas in pre turf war 'elections' for rule of non existent country

January 27, 2006

Hamas supporter chants slogans at the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah on Thursday. Hamas shocks with win Palestinian terrorist party gets majority of seats, Israel refuses negotiations
Matthew Fisher
CanWest News Service; with files from news services

Friday, January 27, 2006
CREDIT: Eliana Aponte, Reuters
An injured man is carried from the Palestinian parliament building in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday after a clash between Hamas and Fatah activists. The fight broke out after Hamas supporters hoisted the group's green flag at the entrance to the building.

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Hamas, the Islamic group behind dozens of suicide bombings against Israel, has been swept to power in a stunning victory in the Palestinian general election.

It vaulted from being a shadowy fringe movement advocating the destruction of Israel to a party of government, sending shock waves through the region and beyond.

Western countries united to call on Hamas to change its charter after it achieved what amounted to a peaceful Islamic revolution through the ballot box. As Hamas has close links to Tehran, the victory extended considerably the influence of the Iranian Islamic republic across the Middle East as its relations worsen with the West.

Preliminary results gave Hamas a comfortable majority of 76 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian legislative council. Fatah garnered 43 seats and independent liberal parties received the other 13 seats.

Hamas's margin of victory allows it, under Palestinian law, to form the next governing authority that will run the daily affairs of the 3.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Following an emergency meeting of the security Cabinet, Israel sent a clear message that it would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which carried out more than 50 suicide bombings resulting in the deaths of 430 Israelis from late 2000 until it agreed to a truce in 2005.

"We will not negotiate with a government that does not keep to its most basic commitment -- fighting terror," said Ehud Olmert, Israel's acting prime minister.

Palestinian voters who supported Hamas were defiant, expressing optimism that the election results would open a new chapter in their long struggle to build a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"The facts are clear. We've made our voices heard ... and America and Israel" have to listen, said Iyad Hussein, a 39-year-old marching in a Hamas parade in Ramallah.

Speaking during a victory parade in Ramallah, Farhat Assad, Hamas's campaign manager and spokesman in the West Bank, said the elections were "first steps in our national project," the creation of a Palestinian state.

"There is nothing to discuss with Israel because 50 years of negotiations got us nothing," Mr. Assad said. "Now is the time for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his vanquished Fatah party would consider an invitation from Hamas to form a coalition government. He said because he is still committed to peace negotiations with Israel, he would revive the role of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in any future talks -- possibly giving Israel a chance to bypass the Palestinian government.

Mr. Abbas is leader of the PLO in addition to his role as Palestinian Authority President. The difference, however, is that Hamas is not a member of the PLO, making it a workable venue through which Israel and the United States could deal with Palestinian issues, much like they did in the early 1990s.

Though he said yesterday that the party would continue to practise "self-defence" in response to what he called Israeli "aggression," Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said last week that his group would consider talks with Israel through a third party. The PLO, Palestinian officials said, could fill that function.

But Israeli politicians were cautious. Across the political spectrum, Israelis said they would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that included Hamas.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who as leader of the opposition Likud Party hopes to return to power in Israel's March elections, said of Hamas's victory in the Israeli daily Haaretz: "Today Hamastan was formed -- an Iranian satellite state in the image of the Taliban."

Hamas's victory comes at a time of sweeping change in the Middle East, as the United States seeks to cement a democratically elected government in war-ravaged Iraq and democratic elections have been held in Egypt and Lebanon.

In Israel and the Palestinian territories, the election results were another tumultuous event in a string that began with last summer's Israeli withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's debilitating stroke this month that left Israel's political future uncertain ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for March.

Silvan Shalom, Israel's foreign minister until only two weeks ago, told the Ynet Web site that Hamas's victory would "lead the entire region to chaos."

"The writing was on the wall," he said. "I warned Mr. Olmert in our first meeting after he assumed the post of acting prime minister. For months I attempted to prevent Hamas participation in the elections.... We have nobody to blame but ourselves."

Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee, told Israel Radio that the country should have ignored American demands and cancelled the Palestinian elections. The result showed that Israel's war against Hamas had been a "tragic failure," he said.

But an influential retired Israeli general predicted that now Hamas was in parliament, Israel would have to begin speaking with it.

"Our failure to see through the different [peace] processes with the PA [Palestinian Authority] has led to the Hamas's drastic political rise," former major-general Itzik Eitan told the Jerusalem Post.

While the West, which regards Hamas as a terrorist organization, wrung its hands over the potential fallout from the Hamas victory, the first big electoral success of political Islam in the Middle East was likely to energize Islamists across the region.

Hamas did well in its Gaza stronghold, but this had been expected. The surprise was how successful it was in individual races in the West Bank.

Except for seats that are reserved for Christian deputies, Hamas swept Jerusalem -- which Israel regards as its eternal capital -- as well as Ramallah, which was previously regarded as a Fatah bastion. Hamas candidates also swept Hebron, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, and won more than half the seats in Jenin and Nablus.

For all those wondering what the consequences of Yasser Arafat's death 14 months ago might mean, the election result provided a partial answer.

In a nationally televised speech last night, Mr. Abbas pleaded with Hamas to abide by international agreements that the Palestinian Authority had already signed "because this is the only way to peace. This is also the vision of Bush; that the two peoples should live side by side and Israel should stop the occupation."



MUHAMMAD RAHAL, 40, A FORMER ARMY OFFICER: "The people are punishing Fatah, because Fatah did not honour those involved with the struggle; they honoured thieves and thugs. The people have fled from their reality for the moment, moving from moderation to extremism. Moderation failed to deliver a result so they are now trying extremism."

NUHA ATWA, 33, MOTHER OF FOUR, lived several years in the United States but now back in her place of birth near Ramallah: "Of course, I voted for Hamas. Everybody in the community spoke about this and we all decided that to vote for a change meant we must vote for Hamas. We are tired with what went before. My brother called me this morning from his home in Florida to say, 'Now look what you have done,' but I said we should not be afraid of change."

ELIAS JUBRAN, 60, A CHRISTIAN and the only wholesaler of alcohol in the West Bank: "I have nothing personally against Hamas and they have nothing personal against me, but what I do is against their principles so I am expecting problems. My distillery was burned down in the 1980s and 1990s, and I know that in this country no security is guaranteed ... I have told my kids to leave this bloody country."

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Ran with fact box "Fatah Being 'Punished'" which has been appended to the story.

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