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.

Hamas trounced the ruling Fatah Party in Wednesday's Palestinian parliamentary elections. While no one disputes the results, the terrorist organization's victory has sparked a firestorm of concern across the globe. The international press adds fuel to the flames.

France's Le Monde reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants to keep the peace process alive, but the paper worries that Israel could be "tempted by a reinforcement of unilateralism … dismissing sine die possible negotiations for a final resolution to the conflict."

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As part of its extensive coverage—the most thorough in the French-language press—Le Monde provides a special edition, as well as a concise backgrounder on Hamas and its history. In an editorial titled "Destabilization," the paperproclaims that, "The two reasons for Hamas' success are known": Israel's unilateralism and Fatah's corruption. However, "no official can forget for one second" that Hamas is determined "to see the state of Israel disappear." But the grosses têtes on the editorial page have no solutions, lamenting that, "After the war in Iraq, the nuclear threat in Iran, the Palestinians' vote … worsens the worries" for the Middle East.

The paper does give a shrewd analysis, however, of the position in which Hamas finds itself. It is "more powerful than it thought and [is] confronted earlier than it had envisioned with the challenge of managing power. This management and the ties they imply with Israel and the West place it in a delicate situation with its words and official orders. On the other hand, Hamas can only congratulate themselves on Israeli declarations excluding all negotiations. Such negotiations don't figure, in fact, among the priorities of this organization."

By far the best and most entertaining article is a colorful piece examining women in Hamas, who comprised 20 percent of the organization's candidates in accordance with election rules. The article features several interviews, including chats with the widow of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi and Islamist cartoonist Omaya Joha, who proclaims: "If polygamy is good for Islam, it is good for me."

Former Bill Clinton adviser Robert Malley encourages "gradual and conditional political engagement" for Hamas, making the well-worn fix-potholes-not-bombs argument.

The right-leaning Le Figaro leads with the violence that the Hamas win sparked; three Fatah sympathizers were wounded in the Gaza Strip. The paper's editorial wags its finger at the Bush administration for refusing to negotiate with Hamas: "Perhaps they should have put conditions on the participation of Islamists in the elections rather than on their exercising of power."

Libération vividly describes the joyous celebrations in Gaza after the Hamas win and points out the "paradox" that "Hamas finds itself having to run the Palestinian Authority, an institution emerging from the Oslo accords, which the movement always condemned."

A disclaimer for l'Humanité's coverage: Its online stuff is rather out of date, so don't rely on the Communist paper for up-to-the-minute news. Online at least, the publication adds little to the coverage, merely recounting the timeline of events and, not surprisingly, blaming Israel for Hamas' landslide.

France's Catholic newspaper La Croix declares that "the Palestinians showed that their priority was to finish with the occupation." According to the paper's analysis, "Before, what was important for the Palestinians, was the construction of a state and the creation of institutions. But for the last five years, it's [been] the occupation of the territories that affects their everyday life with hardships, increasing unemployment, rationing, and especially the impossibility of getting around." The paper also provides a special edition.

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