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MER - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 24 January: Hamas is not taking power tomorrow in occupied Palestine; it is instead asserting power in what can be seen as a kind of historic political blowback for so many awful years of miserable corruption, gross ineptitude and dastardly co-optation by those whom the U.S., Israel, and the Arab 'client regimes' pushed so hard to date to lord over the millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Call it as well a kind of democratic payback for the Israeli/U.S. assassinations of the senior generation of Palestinian leaders including in recent years the founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and the long-time Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat.
Those being put in their place are known as the "Palestinian Authority", and on the whole they are a miserable lot.
Thus even with so much help from the U.S. and Israeli governments -- including the CIA, AID, and Mossad, as well as the Europeans and the Arab 'client regimes' -- the PA tomorrow is about to be essentially castrated even though Mahmoud Abbas (buttressed by Nabil Shaath) will likely remain for some further time the figurehead 'in power'.
Meanwhile the bigger picture is what is really important. The once widely supported and once possible 'two state solution' has been all but killed off by the very powers who today claim to be supporting it, primarily Israel and the U.S.; the fictitious 'Road Map' is as much on life support as is Ariel Sharon himself; and the region is being swept up in an escalating arms race and 'clash of civilizations' which could soon have even more catastrophic consequences than what has happened to the region since the infamous 'Peace to end all Peace' the Western powers imposed on the region at the Paris 'Peace Conference' nearly a century ago.

On the campaign trail with Hamas
By James Reynolds

Mona Mansour drives round Nablus in an old white car, without any bodyguards.

A young Palestinian boy looks at a picture of former Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin.
Hamas hope to turn their popular support into electoral success

BBC News, Jerusalem:
She's well-known in the city as the widow of a famous Hamas gunman, killed by Israel.

Now she has found a way to carry on his fight - by running for parliament for Hamas.

"Nablus has been forgotten. The Palestinian people need us," she tells a small crowd of supporters. "Conditions are terrible. There's corruption and nepotism. There's no security."

The Hamas election platform is clear: pro-religion, anti-corruption, anti-Israel.

The movement has been gathering support on these issues for many years.

Every country has its army and our resistance movement is our army fighting for the cause of our people
Hamas candidate Aziz Dwaik
But for a long time it decided to boycott all Palestinian elections - wanting nothing to do with democratic institutions set up in agreement with Israel.

Now, though, Hamas has decided that it's time to convert its long-standing popular support into seats in the Palestinian parliament. How will the movement fare?

Current opinion polls suggest that it will pick up more than 30% of the vote.

Pressing the flesh

In the old city of Nablus, after mid-day prayers, Hamas candidates go looking for support.

They walk slowly through the market, shaking as many hands as they can.

The candidates are courtly, neat, and determined. Each wears a Hamas banner round his jacket.

None carries a gun. Hamas has taken a clear decision - its young gunmen will do the fighting. Its older, educated class will run for office.

One voter approaches a Hamas candidate.

"You should negotiate with Israel," the man says.

"Why?" the Hamas candidate replies. "We need to win our rights by force."

Bullets and ballots

In the city of Hebron, the movement has just opened a museum of Hamas history.

It is made up of several rooms, putting together the most memorable moments of the organisation's 18-year campaign.

There is a model showing rockets being fired towards Jewish settlements.

There are dozens of pictures celebrating Hamas gunmen and suicide bombers.

One picture even mocks up a Hamas version of Mount Rushmore - with the faces of Hamas leaders replacing the faces of US presidents.

The museum also displays posters of the Hamas candidates running for election.

Poster on display at the Hamas museum
The museum glorifies Hamas leaders killed by Israel
"How can you be a democratic party on the one hand and an armed militia on the other hand. Surely it doesn't mix ?" I ask Dr Aziz Salem Dwaik, who is one of the Hamas candidates in Hebron.

"It mixes all over the world because each and every country has its army and our resistance movement is our army fighting for the cause of our people."

"Will you negotiate with Israel if Hamas gets power in the election?"

"This is a choice that we will take into consideration whenever we feel that the Israelis are accepting our rights and admitting that we have rights in Jerusalem, we have rights all over the area where the Israelis built settlements and built the Israeli annexation and confiscation wall."

Democratic mandate

Dr Dwaik's words leave some room for manoeuvre. He doesn't take the opportunity to repeat the call for Israel's destruction, enshrined in the movement's 1988 charter.

Instead, Hamas leaders suggest and hint that they may be prepared for some kind of accommodation with Israel - leaving a final struggle to future generations.

In return, Israel appears to be making a bit of room for itself as well.

For years government officials have condemned Hamas at all times - refusing to accept any kind of separation between the movement's political and armed wings.

But now, it is faced with the prospect of Hamas with a democratic mandate. So it has to choose its words carefully.

"Can Israel ever deal with Hamas?" I ask Israeli cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit.

"If they change their agenda formally, making action, to say we are cancelling those items on the agenda that are talking about exterminating the state of Israel and joining the route of the road map to make peace with Israel, I cannot avoid the possibility of talking to them - especially if they have been elected," he answers.

There is a wider point as well. For several years now, US President George W Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and others have called for more democracy in the Middle East, and among Palestinians in particular.

The hope being that democracy leads to freedom, stability, and prosperity. But here's a key point for them to consider.

If they want democracy from Palestinian streets, they may just end up with a party like Hamas.


Israelis fear Hamas 'terror state'

By Leonard Doyle in Tel Aviv

The Independent, UK, 24 January: There is almost no contact between the two peoples, separated as they are by a long and impenetrable fence, but the outcome of tomorrow's Palestinian elections will have a profound impact on the future course of Israeli politics.

Watching on the sidelines as the green flags of the Islamic movement fill Israeli television screens, the hard-line Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu predicted yesterday that a Hamas breakthrough would change the course of Israeli politics. "The danger is that Hamas will establish a terror state on the West Bank with the avowed aim of destroying Israel," he said, articulating a fear held across the political divide in Israel.

Israeli politicians are looking on, many in disbelief, as Palestinian voters on the other side of the fence prepare to reward Hamas for embracing the political process. Repeated public offers by Hamas to maintain its ceasefire - now in its second year - and signs that suicide bombings by militants are becoming a thing of the past are met with scarcely disguised scorn.

Mr Netanyahu outlined how his policy as premier, should he be elected, would be an even more vigorous assault on Palestinian hopes for a viable state. He would move the security fence even further inside the West Bank and Gaza to protect Israel's main airport, build further defences in the occupied Golan Heights, hold on to most of the illegally built settlements, and keep Jerusalem undivided.

Hamas, he said, was stockpiling weapons: "Sooner or later they will be in the hills over Tel Aviv airport and terrorism could again be a monumental threat to Israel."


Former IDF chief: Gaza now Hamastan, Hizbullahstan

Moshe Yaalon says during Herzliya Conference Israel failed to create effective, reliable deterrence against rocket attacks; ‘Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel is source of all violence directed against it from dawn of Zionism to this day,’ he adds
By Ronny Sofer

23 January: Former IDF chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said Monday that Gaza has turned into “Hamastan, Hizbullahstan and al-Qaedastan” following Israel’s withdrawal from the area last summer.

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel’s National Security, Yaalon said Israel easily gave up on principles such as border supervision and demilitarization.

The former IDF head said Israel failed to create effective and reliable deterrence against rocket attacks saying, "Israel's unilateral withdrawals were perceived as escape from the rocket threat. Israel failed to create reliable deterrence for the future."

“The Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel is the source of all the violence directed against it from the dawn of Zionism to this day,” he added.

<><><><><>“As long as this does not change, Israel will be prone to violence. The 1967 borders do not provide an answer to the threat of rocket and suicide bombing attacks, nor do they provide an answer to the threat of conventional attacks.

“In order to withstand terror we must remain firm in the belief in the justice of our ways; post and anti-Zionist trends have infiltrated public debate and the decision-making process,” he said.

Yaalon went on to slam the Palestinian Authority, saying it has breached every agreement with Israel.

“The Palestinians do not recognize our right to live within the 1967 borders. Their decision to wage war in September 2000 was aimed at dodging the need to recognize Israel as a sovereign state,” he said.

“All of these are warning signs ahead of determining the country’s permanent borders – either by way of agreement or unilaterally. As long as there is no acceptance of our right to exist, the Israeli leadership should assume any determined border will be challenged by violent acts, unless there is deterrence. The more vulnerable we appear, the bigger the temptation is to attack us.”

Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org

Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2006/1/1327.htm