Israel awakes today to a new reality – its sworn enemy Hamas is about to become a potent political force. The Islamic militant group has swept to victory over the long-dominant Fatah party in Palestinian parliamentary polls, a political earthquake that could bury any hope for peace talks with Israel soon.
It is a daunting prospect for interim prime minister Ehud Olmert, who says Israel will not negotiate peace with a Palestinian government that fails tofight terror. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last year is partly to blame for the strong showing by Hamas, according to right wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. “The reason that that happens was that the Palestinian street sees that Israel retreats under Hamas terror and therefore rewards Hamas in the polls,” he said. The election result has prompted mixed feelings among ordinary Israelis. Some feel Hamas could be less of a threat in office. But relatives of those who died in dozens of suicide attacks launched by Hamas in past uprisings fear the worst. “I think it (Hamas) is a terrorist organisation and it’s not good for Israel at all, because if they are in power, then I think theat they will do even more terrorist action,” one Israeli woman said. Meanwhile, Israel has urged the EU to take a firm stance against the establishment of what it calls a Palestinian “terrorist government”.