(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) HAGOSHRIM, Israel – The victory of Hamas in legislative elections Wednesday could lead to a civil war within Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel, meanwhile, is bracing for its neighbor to be ruled by a party dedicated to destroying the Jewish state and replacing it with an Islamic theocracy. For Israel the event will almost certainly squash the prospects that any further withdrawal from the West Bank will be negotiated with the Palestinian Authority, though additional unilateral withdrawals remain possible.

For Europe and America, the results of the election almost surely spell the end of the Palestinian Arab security services they have helped train and nurture since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

And for the global jihad movement, the Hamas win is already being celebrated in Tehran and the secret offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

Western leaders, in rare harmony, yesterday urged Hamas to disarm and recognize Israel’s right to exist.The terrorist group won 76 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, a move that will likely spell the Islamist organization’s takeover of the Palestinian Authority. The pleas from European capitals, Washington, and the United Nations came as Hamas partisans stormed the Palestinian Legislative Council to raise the green Islamist flag. That prompted Fatah, the group aligned with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to throw stones in a possible preview of coming power struggles.

In Washington, President Bush explained the vote was a protest against the corruption of the Palestinian Authority. But Mr. Bush also said, “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.”

Hamas’s new majority in the legislature ends the PLO and Fatah’s control over the Palestinian Authority for the first time since Israel yielded control over Gaza and Jericho to the PLO in 1994. The election even raised the question of whether the United Nations should revoke the observer status of the PLO mission in New York.

Yesterday Israel’s acting prime minister met with his cabinet. Defense minister Shaul Mofaz told CNN that Israel had no plans to negotiate with a new government led by Hamas. Other Western leaders also appeared to be in no hurry to pressure Israel. In London, Prime Minister Blair said Hamas must decide if it is terrorists or not. In Paris, Prime Minister de Villepin said his government would condition its work with the Palestinian Authority on Hamas’s “renunciation of violence” and “recognition of Israel.” Even U.N. Secretary-General Annan joined the chorus, calling on Hamas to disarm if it wished to participate in the political process.

In the Islamic world, the reaction was far different, even among American allies. Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, urged the world not to “shut the door on Hamas.” He said the group should be given a chance to change its stance. In Afghanistan, President Karzai urged the world to respect the will of the Palestinian voters.

The deputy chief of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Habib, said yesterday, “We congratulate Hamas from the depths of our hearts for the great victory.” Mr. Habib added, “I think that the challenges facing Hamas both inside and outside Palestine will make Hamas confirm the necessity of partnership with the other national factions and political forces, as the upcoming days will require the collaboration of all efforts and all forces.”

That collaboration looks unlikely in the near term. Spokesmen for Fatah said its party central committee had ruled out the possibility of participating in a coalition with Hamas. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Hamas’s leader in Damascus, Khaled Maashal, called Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and offered him the chance to join Hamas in a coalition. Mr. Abbas has been invited to a meeting with Hamas leaders in Gaza, a pointed reminder that he and his party are no longer in charge.

The reaction in Tehran was also congratulatory. A spokesman for its foreign ministry, Hamid Reza Asefi, yesterday said, “The result of these elections will reinforce the unity of the Palestinian people in defending their rights. The massive participation of the Palestinians shows their will to continue the struggle and resistance against occupation.”

Mr. Mashaal visited Tehran on December 15, where he held meetings with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to one Arab diplomat, Mr. Mashaal asked in the meeting that Iran increase its annual contribution to Hamas from its current level of $120 million.

“I think it’s important to remember that Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood,” the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dore Gold, said yesterday.”Hamas has positioned itself to be linked to Sunni and Shiite terrorism. It is funded by Iran. What you have is an organization that sits at the hub of international terrorism.”

Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.


1.  Define the following as used in the article:

  • theocracy, unilateral (para. 1)
  • jihad (4)
  • partisans (5)

2.  What is the main goal of Hamas?

3.  Fatah has been the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority since 1994.  How did Fatah (physically and verbally) react to Hamas taking control?

4.  How did the following leaders react to Hamas’ election victory and refusal to renounce their terrorist activities?
-President Bush
-Defense Minster Mofaz of Israel
-Prime Minister Blair of England
-Prime Minister de Villepin of France
-Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General

5.  What is unusual about the reaction of the leaders in question #4?

6.  How does the reaction of leaders in the Muslim world differ from the reaction of Western leaders?

7.  The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has compiled recent statements made by various leaders of Hamas.  (Read the translations here.)
Based on their own words, do you think that Hamas, as the officially elected leadership of the Palestinian Authority, will end their terrorist activities?  Explain your answer.

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