(by Julie Stahl, CybercastNewsService.com) Jerusalem – The Palestinian militant group Hamas appears to have won a landslide victory in Palestinian Authority elections, putting it in a position to form the next Palestinian government — and ignore the peace process.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah announced early Thursday that Hamas had won more than 70 seats in the 132-seat parliament, giving Hamas an absolute majority in parliament.
(Exit polls indicating that the ruling Fatah party had won by a slim majority were inaccurate, as it turns out.)
Official election results will be released at 7:00 p.m. local time on Thursday, the Palestinian Central Election Commission said. Media reports said that Hamas won a majority of seats in most of the 16 regional districts.
In an apparent confirmation of the victory, the entire Palestinian Authority government submitted their resignations on Thursday. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia’s office said the resignation will allow Hamas to form the next government.
A Hamas-led government presents a huge problem for Israel, the U.S. and European countries, which consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Hamas advocates the destruction of the Jewish State, and Hamas officials have indicated that is not likely to change.
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar on Thursday called the Hamas victory a “blow” to both Israel and the U.S. and said it would cause Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
He encouraged all Palestinian factions to adopt Hamas’ platform, radio reports said.
Al-Zahar also said the Hamas victory would change the way Jordan and Egypt viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel.)
Senior Hamas official Mushir al-Masri has said that Hamas will not negotiate with Israel — nor will it recognize Israel
The Israeli government said it would not respond to the election results until they are officially announced.
But Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly will convene a special cabinet meeting on Thursday evening to discuss the results.
Olmert said on Wednesday that Israel could not accept a situation in which an armed Hamas would be part of the Palestinian government.
“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.
“I will not negotiate with a government that does not meet its most basic obligations – to fight terrorism,” Olmert added.
Israel is prepared to help the Palestinians and Abbas, Olmert said, but “they must meet their commitments.”
Abbas repeatedly has said that he would disarm the militant group Hamas as soon as the elections were over. But Hamas insists it will not give up its arms.
Last week, an Israeli government spokesman said Israel would expect Abbas to begin disarming Hamas by the end of this week.
The U.S. has not officially commented on the election results, President Bush earlier indicated that he would not deal with Hamas until it renounced its goal of destroying Israel.
“A political party, in order to be viable, is one that professes peace, in my judgment, in order that it will keep the peace,” Bush was quoted as saying in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“And so you’re getting a sense of how I’m going to deal with Hamas if they end up in positions of responsibility. And the answer is: ‘Not until you renounce your desire to destroy Israel will we deal with you,'” Bush said.
Stewart Tuttle, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv, said U.S. policy is to avoid dealing with designated terrorist organizations.
“If the Palestinian government reflects the policy of Hamas there will not be a peace process,” Tuttle said.
The U.S. wants to see the Palestinian Authority continue with broader reforms, democratization and renewal of Palestinian institutions. This would require a level of cooperation with Israel, Tuttle said.
As to whether the U.S. would continue funding for the P.A. if Hamas runs it, one U.S. official said no one wants to terminate aid to the Palestinians. But according to U.S. law, it is illegal for the government or private citizens to provide “material support” to terrorist organizations.
The official pointed to U.S. policy in Lebanon, where members of the Hizballah terrorist organization are part of the government. Althought the U.S. maintains ties with the Lebanese government, it does not deal with Hizballah parliamentarians or ministers.
Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. What is the Palestinian Authority? (For a brief explanation, go to Britannica.com)
When was the PA established? (see Background paragraph above for answer)
2. Why do Israel, the U.S. and European countries have a problem with a Hamas led government?
3. Who is Mahmoud Al-Zahar? What two changes does he say will be made by the Hamas victory?
4. How has acting Israeli Prime Minister Olmert reacted to the election results?
5. What did Palestinian President Abbas promise to do when the elections were over? Do you think he will carry out his promise? Explain your answer.
6. How is President Bush responding to a Hamas led PA?
7. According to the PA’s website, President Bush resumed direct aid to the PA. Some have suggested that if Hamas runs the PA without disarming and ending its goal to destroy Israel, that the U.S. should end funding to the PA. (Hamas has refused to do either.) What do you think about U.S. aid to the Palestinians?
ON PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS:
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has historically been associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with whom Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, was elected as President of PA in a landslide victory in 1996. From the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1993 until the death of Yasser Arafat in late 2004, only [that] one election had taken place. All other elections were deferred for various reasons…including the Al-Aqsa Intifada…
However, internal Palestinian strife was also a reason for the disorganization in government, and it was not until Arafat’s death in 2004 that new elections occurred on both presidential and local levels. Although almost 80% of the employees of the PA were local Palestinians, higher posts were occupied mostly by PLO officials who returned from exile once the PA was established in 1994. To many local Palestinians, these “returnees” were a source of bureaucracy and corruption. Arafat’s administration was criticized for its lack of democracy, wide-spread corruption among officials, and the division of power among families and numerous governmental agencies with overlapping functions.
(excerpted from Wikipedia.org)
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