The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which has said it favors the destruction of Israel, won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections, securing 76 seats in the 132-member legislature, officials said Thursday.So, um, hooray for democracy?
The preliminary results showed Fatah, which has held power since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, garnered only 43 seats, dramatically shifting the political landscape in the volatile region.
The 13 remaining seats went to smaller parties and independents.
Even before results were announced, the outcome was apparent. "We have lost the elections; Hamas has won," Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian lawmaker with Fatah, said early Thursday.
Needless to say, this is not good news for Israel, or for those in the region who want the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians resolved. Check out Israel's reaction:
Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel could not accept a situation in which Hamas in its current configuration -- committed to the destruction of Israel -- was a part of the Palestinian Authority.The problem, though, is that while this is excellent rhetoric, I wonder whether Olmert will be able to follow through with it. Is Israel going to cut ties altogether? How will they administer the occupied territories?
"I will not negotiate with a government that does not meet its most basic obligations -- to fight terrorism. We are prepared to assist the Palestinians and [Palestinian President Abbas] very much but they must meet their commitments," Olmert said, according to a statement released by his office.
Yet, there is perhaps some good news: as seen in this related story, "for the first time, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians oppose violent attacks against Israelis". So it may well be that Hamas will be forced to moderate, if it wants to retain the power that it has finally won.