Reaction from Europe to the Hamas victory has been unequivocal: the party must renounce violence and recognise Israel.
But at the same time Austria, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, was keen to show an even-handed approach. During a meeting in Salzburg with his French counterpart, Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said:
“With Mahmoud Abbas as President of the Palestinians, we have a partner in whom we have confidence and his commitment to the road map for peace. Part of that is the fundamental concept of two states – that is, the recognition of the existence of Israel and in turn that Israel should recognise the concept of a Palestinian state. Now things may have changed but without talking about political parties, the priorty must be to see the formation of a new Palestinian government.”
The European Union is the biggest donor to the aid-dependent Palestinian authority and has warned that Hamas could risk international isolation if it does not disarm. In the United States, the response from President George W. Bush was put in typically blunt terms.
“Well I made it very clear that the United States does not support a political party that wants to destroy around all Israel. And that people must renounce on that part of the platform,” he said.
Bush later admitted that the victory of Hamas was a sign of democracy at work and that the majority of Palestinians had been unhappy with the status quo in the region.