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Hamas Election Gains Trigger Different Israeli Reactions

PM Sharon: 'Disengagement Will Be Implemented Shortly After Tisha B'Av on August 14th'

Foreign Minister Shalom: 'If Hamas Wins Palestinian Election, Call Off Disengagement Or Hamas Will Turn Gaza Strip Into Hamas-Stan!'

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

The Hamas gains in Palestinian municipal elections in the Gaza Strip have touched off various responses in Israel. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom proposed that Israel reconsider the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements, if Hamas wins the July election for the Palestinian parliament. However, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has confirmed the controversial evacuation will be implemented shortly after Tisha B'Av, which marks the destruction of the First and Second Biblical Temples and falls on August 14th.

Mahmoud Abbas

After the recent municipal elections, Hamas, which vows Israel's destruction, is now set to take control of the Gaza Strip. Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has called on the government to cancel the upcoming withdrawal if Hamas does win the July election for the Palestinian parliament. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responds by saying the evacuation will go ahead as planned, but after the Tisha B'Av holy day on August 15th.

  • Hamas is gaining strength in the Palestinian political arena - It did well against Fatah, the organization of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the Gaza municipal elections and this is viewed as a bellwether for the all-important ballot for the Palestinian election in July. The question is whether Hamas is gaining popularity because of its campaign against financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority or because of the suicide bombers that Hamas dispatches against Israel.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom

Let there be no illusion; despite the Abbas gambit of 'co-opting' Hamas into the   Palestinian political process, Hamas goals have not changed. Danny Rubinstein, an expert on the Palestinians, wrote in the May 9th edition of the left-wing Ha'aretz newspaper:''Officially, at least, there has been no change in the Hamas position. It does not recognize the State of Israel and supports the continuation of the armed struggle. Hamas publications continue to refer to Israel as the 'Zionist entity' and as the 'occupied territories of 1948 '. Palestine in its entirety is defined as belonging to the Waqf (Muslim Religious Council), and therefore no concessions are possible.''

  • So, who will co-opt whom? Will President Abbas be able to impose his professed desire of halting terror and making peace or will it be the other way around? During the Oslo process that began in 1993 and blew up with the wave of Palestinian suicide bombers in 2000, most Israelis believed Yasser Arafat was negotiating in good faith; terror would end and there would be a happy ending, and yes, a full-fledged Palestinian state (Yitzhak Rabin's Labor party was elected on a platform which stated that Labor did not oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state). But a majority of Israelis believe today the reality was that Arafat created a Palestinian Authority that actually used terrorism as an instrument of policy. Although Arafat conned Israel, his Palestinian Authority was really HAMAS WITH A MASK. Unlike Arafat, Abbas believes terror is counter-productive to the Palestinian cause. He rejects playing the terror card, but is it an illusion to think he can bar Hamas from doing so if the Palestinian Street is backing the terror organization?Will the Palestinian Authority eventually turn into HAMAS WITHOUT A MASK?
  • HAMAS-STAN - This is where Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom steps in  recommending

that Israel call off the Gaza withdrawal, if Hamas takes control of the Gaza Strip. Shalom warns it will turn into Hamas-Stan, where the terrorists will launch every conceivable attack across the Israeli border. (At the outset, the Foreign Minister opposed Sharon's unilateral withdrawal without a Palestinian quid pro quo.) Prime Minister Sharon is apparently staying the course. The PM says the disengagement will be implemented with a slight change in schedule shortly after August 15th. (Due to the holy days before Tisha B'Av the ninth day of Av in the Hebrew calendar which marks the fall of the First and Second Temples in 586 B.C.E and 70 C.E.). From Sharon's point of view, he decided on the unilateral withdrawal because Arafat was not a peace partner and it was in Israel's national interest to pull out of Gaza; Hamas and Arafat are one and the same.The Palestinians are up in arms about Shalom's statement accusing the Foreign Minister of 'gross intervention in Palestinian internal affairs!' Labor Party Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Herzog has also implied that Shalom is trying to score points with the Likud central committee that opposes the evacuation. The fact of the matter is that Shalom has really done Hamas a favor - more Palestinians will probably vote for the organization in the parliamentary election.

  • Sharon - Might Sharon be annoyed that his Foreign Minister may actually be provoking the undesirable Hamas popularity among Palestinians? Not likely, if the Prime Minister does not put much faith in the ability of Abbas to rein in the terrorists. After the upcoming pullback, the Prime Minister declares there will be no second unilateral disengagement in Judea and Samaria, that is the West Bank. In other words, Israel will dig in and only bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians will bring about any further withdrawals. And Sharon makes clear that final borders will be determined in final status talks with the Palestinians. He insists that large Israeli settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria will be included inside Israel's border with a contiguous land link. As for the Roadmap process, Sharon says it hasn't started yet nor will it until Chairman Abbas fulfills the first commitment - disarming and not co-opting Hamas and all the terror groups.
  • Illusion & Compromise - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 17th 2003 to U.S. House of Representatives:'Compromise is a fine thing, except when based on an illusion; and I do not believe you can compromise with this new form of terrorism.'
David Essing

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