Fatah No Más, Hola Hamas

What the foreign papers are saying.
Jan. 27 2006 6:32 PM

Fatah No Más, Hola Hamas

The international press analyzes the Palestinian elections.

(Continued from Page 1)

Even though soccer and Davos get top billing on the Web site of Le Temps (Geneva), the paper provides hands down the best reporting and analysis in the French-language press. They write, "The shock is not only enormous. It is numerous and heralds other upheavals," such as the long-term changes that eventually made the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a viable political force.

Le Temps has little love for President Bush: "When he opens his eyes on 'the liberty that spreads across the Middle East,' as he said yesterday, he sees a very aggressive Islamist power in Iran, religious leaders dominating in Iraq, the progress of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Risk of the ballot box? Perhaps, but the victory for Hamas creates a more acute problem for the United States than anywhere else."

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A column in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz predicts that the Hamas victory not only means trouble for Israel, but for Hamas, too, since the organization finds itself up the creek without a paddle: "Its work until now has been easy, because it has never had to bear responsibility for the daily existence of the Palestinian people in the territories. Its leaders understand that without cooperation with Israel it has no chance to ensure a minimal existence for the masses." A Jerusalem Post analysis brims with optimism, sort of. Applauding the elections as a "great success," the author suggests it's time for Hamas to throw down: "Now for the first time Arab Islamists will have to match their ideology with their life practice." This course of events might be the perfect opportunity for Hamas to "clear its name from terrorism, exchange bombing for talking, and show that a religious Muslim government does not necessarily mean forcing religion on people, nor does it mean using violence as a means to get justice." Another analysis says the victory spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the United States: "Hamas's victory has put the Bush administration in a very difficult position, not only because it deprives the US of its partner for promoting the two-state solution, but also because of the devastating affect the results will have on Bush's foreign policy worldwide." However, all is not lost if Abbas remains a linchpin: "The US can always keep on negotiating with Abbas and with Fatah members of the future cabinet, and at the same time avoid any contact with ministers representing Hamas."

While many are fretting over Hamas' terrorist tendencies, many of the editorials in the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent advise the United States, Israel, and Europe to get over it. An opinion piece in the Middle East Times predicts that cooler heads will prevail when the storm dies down: "Hamas will state that it is ready for negotiations and find some religious basis for this. The Israeli government (probably headed by Ehud Olmert) will bow to reality and American pressure. Europe will forget its ridiculous slogans. In the end, everybody will agree that a peace, in which Hamas is a partner, is better than a peace with Fatah alone." Lebanon's Daily Star strikes a similar chord with an editorial titled, "Hamas: A reality Israelis, Americans and Europeans will have to accept." It advises world leaders not to consider the past as prologue and points out that "during the past year the militant arm of the party has demonstrated considerable pragmatism and self-restraint. And despite provocation, Hamas has remained committed to a cease-fire with Israel since last February." Pakistan's News International warns world leaders that if they don't respect the self-determination of the Palestinian people, the repercussions can be severe: "The Palestinian People have spoken their choice must be respected. There can be no formula for greater turmoil in the Middle East than for that choice to be rudely rejected."

British editorials are decidedly foreboding and cautionary. The wisdom dispensed by the Guardian is surprisingly balanced: "[T]he right response to this result is to insist that Hamas make clear that it is committed to negotiations with Israel. The new parliament should pass and implement a draft political parties law requiring armed militias to disband. By the same token Israel must meet its obligations under the internationally backed 'road map' for peace, including the cessation of all settlement activity." The Times argues that Europe should not buy into the talk about democracy taming Hamas' violent proclivities and should deal with the party on its own terms: "As the largest provider of funds for the PA, the European Union has, for too long, turned a blind eye to embezzlement. If Hamas can provide cleaner government while abjuring violence, Europe can continue support. If it does neither, both funding and acceptance should be promptly withdrawn. The EU funded Arafat's corruption. It must not finance Hamas terrorism." The Daily Telegraph expresses similar sentiments: "If Islamists want to take part in democratic life, then they must learn to live by its rules. The question is not whether Muslim radicals should be elected to power, but what they do in office and whether they can be voted out."

Zuzanna Kobrzynski is Slate's executive assistant.Amanda Watson-Boles, who studied in France, is a Slate copy editor.

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