On this day: the Palestinian elections

January 25 2006: Hamas wins the popular vote

By Jennifer Lipman, January 25, 2011

The first Palestinian Legislative Council elections in a decade, the Palestinian elections of 2006 marked a turning point in Middle East politics as Hamas came out triumphant at the polls.

Ruling party Fatah took just 43 of the 132 Palestinian Authority parliamentary seats, while a group viewed around the world as a terrorist organisation took 76.

About 1.34 million people – residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – were able to vote in the election. But Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas and Yasir Arafat before his death, had dominated Palestinian politics for years, enabling Hamas to run as the party of change.

The result sent shockwaves around the international community – 50 suicide bombs had been carried out by Hamas members against Israel while the Hamas charter outlined the faction’s dedication to the destruction of Israel.

The Israeli government ruled out dealing with a Palestinian administration that included Hamas.

Then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the Palestinian Authority without disarming.

"I won't hold negotiations with a government that does not stick to its most basic obligation of fighting terror.”

The United States took the same stance, and the Quartet subsequently imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, demanding that Hamas recognize Israel.

The result also triggered further internal strife, as Hamas and Fatah battled for control. A coalition rule was formed, but in June 2007 Hamas seized power in the Gaza strip and the unity government subsequently collapsed. Elections scheduled for January 2010 were postponed.

What the JC: Israel’s military establishment needs to examine the failure of its intelligence branches to foresee this dangerous development. The enormity of Hamas’s election victory is startling and the naivety of those who argue, even in this paper, that perhaps there could be a positive side to its ascent to power, is worrying. While it is true that Hamas has come to power through the ballot box, and in no small measure as a protest vote against the corrupt and inefficient Fatah regime, it should not be forgotten that Hamas is not a political party but a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organisation sworn to destroy the state of Israel. Its charter is full of poisonous antisemitism; its members have been perfectly willing to blow themselves up, killing hundreds of Israeli civilians.

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Last updated: 9:32am, January 25 2011