Analysis: Is there room for optimism?

Analysts differ on potential consequences of Hamas's apparent victory.

hamas 88 (photo credit: )
hamas 88
(photo credit: )
Analysts were divided Thursday as to what Hamas's seeming victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections portends for Israel. Hamas officials were claiming Thursday morning that they had won the majority of seats in the PLC. Ambassador Dore Gold, president of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, drew a direct connection between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
"Hamas is not just another Palestinian party. It is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is still illegal in Egypt. In the Arab world, the Muslim Brotherhood is viewed as the main precursor for all radical Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda. "Everyone knows that Osama bin Laden's mentor, Sheik Abdel Azzam, came out of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and that Ayman al Zawahiri (Bin Ladin's second in command) once belonged to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, Israel has to understand that the Hamas victory could lead to the emergence of a terrorist entity right next to its main cities," he told The Jerusalem Post Thursday. Gold strongly urged Israel to seal off the West Bank to prevent Al Qaeda from linking up with Hamas. "First and foremost, Israel must isolate the West Bank and not repeat the episode of the Philadelphi corridor through which Al Qaeda entered the Gaza Strip. It is absolutely imperative for Israel to retain defensible borders in the Jordan valley so that the forces of Abu Musab al Zarqawi [head of Al Qaeda in Iraq] in the east don't link up with Hamas in the west." Gold, who has written a book about the rise of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia pointed to a letter sent by Zawahiri to Zarqawi in the summer of 2005 imploring him to transfer the jihad in Iraq to neighboring secular states, namely Jordan and Syria, and then plan the clash with Israel. "We've already seen evidence of Al Qaeda in Jordan with the attacks in Amman and Aqaba," he added. However, Gideon Greenstein, founder and president of The Re'ut Institute claimed the situation could have been worse. "This is bad news but it could have been worse news. The bad news is a very clear Hamas victory. The worse news would have been a small victory for Fatah. A small victory would have meant that Hamas would be calling the shots but they would have the immunity granted by Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas]'s special status. "Abu Mazen was untouchable from the perspective of the international community and would have provided political cover for Hamas. With this victory, Hamas is exposed at all levels - they have a majority at the grassroots, municipal, and parliamentary levels," he told The Post. He also stressed that the situation provided a huge opportunity for Israel if it acted quickly to rally the international community to use all of its leverage on Hamas. "This crisis is a big opportunity for Israel to create a situation where direct pressure will be applied on the Hamas leadership to revisit its ideology and its association with terrorism immediately upon entry into power. "They are as confused as we are and the international community is. The question is, who will collect itself first? If Israel is the first to collect itself, it could rally the international community and catch Hamas unprepared. Nothing has prepared Hamas for this victory and we should remember that in the next few days." Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the Program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University predicted a Hamas victory would lead to greater instability and violence. "The outcome of the PA elections is likely to lead to greater internal instability and violence, as the various factions (Hamas, old Fatah, the younger Fatah, etc.) battle for control over resources and power. "The chances of a newly pragmatic Hamas are very low -- they are likely to follow the path of Hizbullah and the Taliban, meaning continued extremist Islamic ideology, rejectionism, and terrorism. If the EU, the US and the World Bank continue funding the PA in the hope that this will change, Palestinians will see this as a great achievement. "For Israel, the outcome means that it is necessary to prepare for greater chaos and anarchy, with very little chance of political compromise, even on limited issues, and a rethinking of the details of further unilateral disengagement." With Elliot Jager.