Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org


MER - MiddleEast.org - Washington - 26 January: When the Israelis released the founder of Hamas from prison some years ago they did so because they had attempted to assassinate in Amman the man who today heads Hamas from Damascus and they needed to provide King Hussein an excuse to give them back their caught and endangered Mossad henchmen. Then, a few years later, they assassinated Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a blind paraplegic who founded Hamas in the late 1980s, as he emerged from a Gaza Mosque one morning -- this on top of an ongoing anti-Hamas assassination campaign designed to dismember and weaken 'The Islamic Resistance Movement'. The actual result however is what happened yesterday in a sea of Hamas green.
When the Mossad attempted to assassinate Osama Bin Laden ten years ago now, using a classic technique involving a woman we are now learning, they failed; as did the Americans when they went after him directly in 1998. The goal of course was to break the back of Al-Qaeda. The actual result however is what happened on 9/11.
And when the Mossad 'stealth assassinated' the founder of the PLO and the head of Fateh, Yasser Arafat, in 2004 -- after years of isolating and quasi-imprisoning him in his compound in Ramallah -- the goal was to replace him with more quisling 'Palestinian Authority' leaders, force them into policing (i.e. disarmaing) their own people and probably bring about a civil war, and ram them with a duplicitous 'agreement' setting up a false and rump Palestinian State that would have actually legitimized their miserable apartheid occupation. The actual result however was to totally discredit the corrupt and West co-opted PA, expose the 'peace process' as sham, and bring on the new era of Palestinian Hamas which starts today in the Holy Land with associated Islamic movements in Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and indeed throughout the crucial Middle East region.

Hamas Wins Landslide 76 Seats

AP Jan 26 12:47 PM US/Eastern - RAMALLAH, West Bank - The Islamic militant Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections, winning 76 seats in the 132-member legislature, election officials said Thursday. The rival Fatah Party, which controlled Palestinian politics for four decades, won 43 seats.

Hamas supporters raised their flag over the Palestinian parliament and rushed into the building amid clashes with Fatah loyalists a day after winning parliamentary elections.

The two camps threw stones at each other, breaking windows in the building, as Fatah supporters briefly tried to lower the green Hamas banners. The crowd of about 3,000 Hamas backers cheered and whistled as activists on the roof of the parliament raised the Hamas banner again.

It was the first confrontation between Hamas and Fatah since the Islamic militant group won parliamentary elections on Wednesday.

Palestinian leaders huddled to determine what role the Islamic militant group will play in governing the territories.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask Hamas to form the next government, with his defeated Fatah Party weighing whether to form a partnership or serve in the opposition.

A Hamas government, without Fatah as a moderating force, would greatly complicate Abbas' efforts to restart peace talks. The Islamic militants, who carried out dozens of suicide bombings and seek Israel's destruction, have said they oppose peace talks and will not disarm. Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas.

The top Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal told Abbas his group is ready for a political partnership, Hamas said.

In a first sign of pragmatism, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said the group would extend its year-old truce if Israel reciprocates. "If not, then I think we will have no option but to protect our people and our land," he told Associated Press Television News.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. position on Hamas as a terrorist organization has not changed despite the outcome.

"You cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror," she told an international conference in Davos, Switzerland, via a telephone hookup from Washington.

She said she had called Abbas as well as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"The Palestinians have a constitutional process that they will now follow. We ask all parties to respect this process so that it can unfold in an atmosphere of calm and security," Rice said.

Abbas' office said she told him that the Bush administration "will continue supporting the elected president and his policies," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an Abbas aide.

Abbas was elected separately a year ago and remains president. However, the Palestinian leader has said he would resign if he could no longer pursue his peace agenda. The Cabinet and legislature must approve any major initiative by Abbas, giving Hamas tremendous influence over peace moves.

Aides said he planned a major speech Thursday night, after final results are announced by the Central Election Commission.

Acknowledging the Hamas victory, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and his Cabinet ministers resigned hours before official results were released.

"This is the choice of the people. It should be respected," Qureia said. "If it's true, then the president should ask Hamas to form a new government." The Cabinet remained in office in a caretaker capacity.

Zahar also promised a complete overhaul of Palestinian public services and administration.

"We are going to change every aspect, as regards the economy, as regards industry, as regards agriculture, as regards social aid, as regards health, administration, education," he said.

Hamas supporters streamed into the streets to celebrate. In Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Hamas loyalists shot in the air and handed out candy. Others honked horns and waved Hamas flags from cars.

Israeli officials declined comment, but senior security officials gathered Thursday to discuss the results. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert scheduled talks with senior officials later in the day.

Olmert said Wednesday, before Hamas claimed victory, that Israel cannot trust a Palestinian leadership in which the Islamic group has a role.

"Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the Palestinian Authority without disarming," Olmert said in a statement issued by his office.

President Bush told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the United States will not deal with Hamas until it renounces its position calling for the destruction of Israel.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, according to news reports, called the outcome a "very, very, very bad result." Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU external relations commissioner, said Hamas must be "ready to work for peace" with Israel if it joins the Palestinian government.

Annan said any group that participates in a democratic process should "ultimately disarm." Otherwise, he said, there was a "fundamental contradiction."

Hamas capitalized on widespread discontent over years of Fatah corruption and ineffectiveness. Much of its campaign focused on internal issues while playing down the conflict with Israel.

Before the election, Hamas had suggested it would be content as a junior partner in the next government, thus avoiding a decision on its relationship with Israel.

Throughout the campaign, leaders sent mixed signals, hinting they could be open to some sort of accommodation with Israel. Now it will have to take a clearer position on key issues, including whether to abandon its violent ideology.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas candidate who won election in the northern Gaza Strip, said the group is ready for a partnership _ presumably with Abbas.

Former President Carter, who led a group of international observers, said the elections were "completely honest, completely fair, completely safe and without violence." Turnout was heavy, with nearly 78 percent of 1.3 million eligible voters casting ballots.

Palestinian election officials confirmed that Hamas had won a large majority of the seats up for grabs in electoral districts in the West Bank and Gaza. It was the first time Hamas has contested a parliamentary vote.

Half the seats at stake were chosen on a national list and the other half by districts. While the national voting appeared to be close, election officials said Hamas had won a large majority in the district races. Hamas apparently took advantage of divisions in Fatah; the long-ruling party fielded multiple candidates in many districts, splitting the Fatah vote.

Initial exit polls had forecast a slight edge for Fatah, with Hamas coming in a strong second. The polls predicted that neither party would have a majority and would have to rely on smaller parties to form a coalition.

However, on Thursday morning, Hamas officials said the group had won up to 75 seats _ giving it a solid majority in the 132-member parliament.

Officials in Fatah conceded that Hamas had won at least 70 seats, or enough to rule alone. They spoke on condition of anonymity because counting in some districts was continuing.

Palestinian pollsters were at a loss to explain the discrepancy between the exit polls and the reality. It may have been partly due to a reluctance by some voters to admit to pollsters that they were abandoning the ruling party.

Also, the errors appeared especially glaring in the district races, where smaller numbers of voters were polled.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who apparently was re-elected on a moderate platform, said the Hamas victory was a dramatic turning point. She said she is concerned the militants will impose their fundamentalist social agenda and lead the Palestinians into international isolation.

She said Fatah's corruption, Israel's tough measures and international indifference to the plight of the Palestinians were to blame for Hamas' strong showing.

Washington miscalculated in pushing for the vote, as part of its pro- democracy campaign in the Arab world, she said. "The Americans insisted on having the election now, so they have to respect the results of the election, as we all do," she said.

Israel has repeatedly asked Abbas to force Hamas and other militant groups to disarm but Abbas has refused, warning such an act could cause civil war.

Hamas win redraws political map
Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:08 PM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - The Islamic militant group Hamas swept to victory over the long-dominant Fatah party on Thursday in Palestinian parliamentary polls, a political earthquake that could bury any hope for reviving peace talks with Israel soon.

Hamas won an overwhelming majority in the 132-seat legislature, taking 76 seats to Fatah's 43 in Wednesday's election, the official vote count showed. It gives Hamas the power to shape and possibly even lead the next cabinet.

The shock outcome does not automatically unseat President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate elected last year after Yasser Arafat's death. But he has said he might resign if unable to pursue a peace agenda.

U.S. President George W. Bush appealed to Abbas to stay in office, but took aim at Hamas, vowing Washington would not deal with an armed Palestinian group advocating Israel's destruction.

"Today we woke up and the sky was a different color. We have entered a new era," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said after Hamas claimed victory.

Amid heightened tensions, Fatah supporters clashed with triumphant Hamas activists who briefly hoisted a green Hamas flag at the entrance to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.

With peace negotiations stalled since 2000 and Israel and Hamas bitter enemies, Israeli interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could opt for more unilateral moves, following last year's Gaza pullout, to shape borders on land Palestinians want for a state.

Olmert, who took over from Ariel Sharon after the 77-year-old leader's January 4 stroke, suggested as much in a speech this week in which he repeated peace talks could not resume unless the Palestinian Authority disarmed militants.

A senior Fatah official said it appeared Hamas was propelled to victory by public frustration over the mainstream faction's failure to achieve Palestinian statehood and anger over years of corruption in its institutions and in the Palestinian Authority.

The Islamic group's charity network in the impoverished Gaza Strip and in the West Bank has also boosted its popularity.

"Hamas did not win because people loved Hamas, but because people were taking revenge against the past years of Fatah rule," said Adel al-Helo, 41, a Gaza shopkeeper.

In its first official comment on the poll result, Israel urged the European Union to take a firm stance against the establishment of a Palestinian "terrorist government".

"After the takeover by Hamas of the Palestinian Authority, it is incumbent on the European Union to speak out clearly and unequivocally that there will be no European understanding of a process that would mean the establishment of a terrorist government," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said.

Leaders of the EU, the biggest donor to the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority, said earlier Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel or risk international isolation.


In Washington, Bush said Hamas's victory was a sign Palestinians were unhappy with the status quo and showed democracy at work, which was positive for the Middle East.

But he made clear he was sticking to Washington's view of Hamas as a terrorist group. It has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform," Bush told a news conference. "You can't be a partner in peace if ... your party has got an armed wing."

The United States is the main sponsor of a long-stalled "road map" peace plan that charts mutual steps toward the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

Commentators in the Arab world predicted pragmatism would eventually prevail, with Hamas softening a position that now calls for the Jewish state's destruction and Israel forging contacts with new Palestinian leaders on its doorstep.

Hamas has largely respected a truce for nearly a year.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie of Fatah and his cabinet quit in the face of the Hamas victory. In the streets of Gaza, Hamas activists embraced, fired guns in the air and handed out sweets.

Under Palestinian law, the biggest party in the 132-member parliament can veto the president's choice of a prime minister, effectively enabling Hamas to shape the next cabinet.

Hamas's politburo chief Khaled Meshaal telephoned Abbas to affirm "a commitment to partnership with all the Palestinian forces, including the brothers in the Fatah movement".

But Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official, rejected any coalition with Hamas, a group that Abbas had said he hoped to bring into the political mainstream and persuade to disarm.

Shooting briefly erupted during the melee outside parliament in Ramallah. Four Fatah supporters were injured by stones and broken glass before Palestinian security forces intervened.

In the wider Middle East, the Hamas victory was seen as strengthening the hand of those who favor democracy even at the risk of removing authoritarian Arab governments which themselves face Islamist opposition movements sympathetic to Hamas.

Despite weeks of armed chaos, voting in the first parliamentary election since 1996 was orderly, with about 900 foreign observers led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter looking on. Turnout was 78 percent of the 1.3 million voters.

In reaction to the vote, the quartet of Middle East advisors -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- were to have a telephone conference later on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Davos, Switzerland.

(Additional reporting by Wafa Amr and Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah, Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Jeffrey Heller and Matt Spetalnick in Jerusalem, Saul Hudson in Washington, Mark Trevelyan in Davos and Jonathan Wright in Cairo)

Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org

Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2006/1/1330.htm