World Taken by Surprise by Hamas Victory

As foreign governments attempt to formulate their reactions to the Hamas victory, informal talks are underway for a joint Hamas-Fatah government. Fatah is not enthusiastic.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 14:10

Amidst reports that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is considering resigning - Prime Minister Abu Ala already resigned this morning - initial contacts are being made for a future PA government.

Leading Hamas official Khaled Meshal, who directs the terrorist organization from Damascus, has asked Abbas to stay on and agree to a unity Hamas-Fatah government. This would serve Hamas' interests, as its experience until now has added up only to waging terror attacks and running charity organizations - but not running a state government. Fatah, however, has not shown great enthusiasm in joining such a regime.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in one of his first decisions today following the Hamas victory, ordered the ministers in his government not to discuss publicly the developments in the PA. He plans to hold an emergency meeting this evening with Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny and Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz to discuss the developments in the Palestinian Authority.

The Hamas victory took the world by surprise. Reports about the elections all predicted a Fatah victory, acknowledging only that it might be narrower than thought. Regarding the U.S., analysts discussed whether or not the Bush Administration would engage in dialogue with Hamas ministers of a Fatah-led government, barely noting the possibility that they might have to consider talking with a government led by Hamas.

U.S. President George Bush told the Wall Street Journal this week, "And so you're getting a sense of how I'm going to deal with Hamas if they end up in positions of responsibility. And the answer is: not until you renounce your desire to destroy Israel will we deal with you."

The Washington Post reported early this week that the U.S. had, relatively secretly, spent $2 million in recent weeks to promote Fatah.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yigal Pressler said today that he does not expect Israel to re-enter Gaza, even if Hamas continues its terrorist attacks, as long as it heads the Palestinian Authority. Pressler is a former advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers on terrorism.

Pressler predicted that Israel's refusal to talk with Hamas would last only as long as Hamas says it does not recognize Israel. "I don't see a big difference between Hamas and Fatah," he said. "Israel until now spoke with Fatah because Fatah recognized Israel after the Oslo Accords, but if Hamas decides to recognize Israel, Israel will negotiate with Hamas."

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said today that his party would never conduct negotiations with a terror organization that has set out to destroy the State of Israel. Observers said that this position is not so much hawkish as a declaration of intent to promote further unilateral withdrawals.

Former General Security Service director and current Labor Party Knesset candidate Ami Ayalon said, "We have to rely on ourselves; we must continue building the fence, something that is in total [sic] consensus in Israel... We absolutely must not talk with Hamas, unless they totally change their entire approach to Israel - not just if they call another temporary ceasefire or the like..."


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