Hamas’ first ever participation in legislative elections marks a dramatic change of course for the radical militant movement.
It had previously rejected the Oslo accord and all its recommendations regarding the democratic process, but the situation is now totally different according to its spokesman Samy Abu Zhuri. “Our people are at the door of a new era,” he said. “It’s an era of real change and reform of the Palestinian political system. We now have a chance of turning it into a multi-party system.” But Hamas’ tactical change has not pleased everyone. For Israel, the group is – and will remain – a terrorist organisation, and for that reason it is blocking any campaigning from taking place in Arab East Jerusalem. For its part, Hamas has warned that postponing the election will lead to a “vacuum and a dark future”. Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, said: “We will show the United States and Israel and the international community that the Palestinian people have learned their lesson.” “The Palestinian people and all the factions insist on making the resistance as important as politics and social services, without compromising, without abandoning any part of Palestine,” he added. The United States and the European Union have both voiced concern that Israel could be blamed internationally for hindering Palestinian democracy. But at the same time, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, has warned that there is a price to be paid for taking part in a free election. “Those who want to be part of the political process must accept that the continued use of violence is not compatible with a democratic state and democratic elections,” he said. Hamas is widely seen as less corrupt than the ruling Fatah party and many Palestinians have welcomed its charity network as much as its suicide bombings. Even if the vote in Jerusalem is postponed, the militant group is still expected to make a strong showing, which could shift the balance of power in the region.