Hamas group must abandon terrorism
The militant group has won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.
ANY semblance of a peace process in the Middle East was imperiled by this week's stunning victory of the Hamas, the radical Islamic faction, in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Its leaders will need to abandon terrorism and its call for the destruction of Israel to avoid an abrupt and lengthy halt to peace prospects.
Contrary to widespread skepticism, Hamas leaders have indicated they might be willing to do so. The Hamas campaign platform supported negotiations with -- and thus recognition of -- Israel. It ran mainly against the corruption of the government led by the Fatah party founded decades ago by Yasser Arafat.
Such an approach would have been more credible if Hamas had captured a second-place vote or even a plurality, forcing it to work with more moderate parties. Its majority -- 76 of the 132 seats in the parliament -- places Hamas in complete control.
Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader, said the group would hold "intensive discussions" with the Fatah party and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who remains president of the Palestinian Authority. "The main principle of Hamas is political partnership. We should work together," he said. However, those remarks were made before the official election results were announced.
The Hamas victory could have disastrous effects on the upcoming Israeli elections. Kadima, the centrist party founded by Ariel Sharon two months ago, has held onto a strong lead following his massive stroke earlier this month, but former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leader of the Likud Party, could benefit from a backlash to the Palestinian vote.
"It doesn't matter how much makeup they put on Hamas, it will remain the same Hamas," Netanyahu said of the election results. "We can't reach understandings with Hamas because their goal is to destroy Israel." That does not bode well for peace in the Middle East.
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