Netanyahu: Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to destroy Israel.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
A victory for Hamas in Wednesday's Palestinian election will strengthen the Right in Israel and harm Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party, MKs on the Israeli Right said on Tuesday.
They said a Hamas victory would serve as a wake-up call for the Israeli public that would begin a process of support shifting from Kadima and Labor to parties further to the Right.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to destroy Israel, and it was strengthened by the disengagement," Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told reporters outside the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The head of the Likud's response team, MK Gilad Erdan, said he hoped that Hamas's power would not rise in the election, but if it did, the nationalist camp would benefit.
"A Hamas victory will make Israelis finally realize that the unilateral withdrawal strengthened the extremists at the expense of the moderates," Erdan said. "The public will realize this even more if Hamas becomes part of the government." National Union MK Aryeh Eldad said that a Hamas victory would prevent Olmert from being able to say, as he did in his Herzliya Conference speech, that he intended to proceed diplomatically via the bilateral road map.
"With Hamas, there is no roadmap," Eldad said. "Olmert will have no choice but to admit that he is in favor of another unilateral withdrawal and explain why." National Union faction chairman Zvi Hendel said that Hamas would prove right people like him who warned ahead of disengagement that it would encourage the Palestinians to continue with terrorist attacks.
But Kadima strategist Eyal Arad said he believed a Hamas victory would have "no impact whatsoever" on the Israeli election because "people won't choose a party based on how the Arabs voted." "There won't be a Pavlovian reaction of the Hamas bell ringing and everyone going to the Right," a source close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said. "The people want to be in the Center. There may be attacks and maybe even casualties, but the public is geared to the Center, and as long as the low level of terrorist activity continues, it won't sway the Israeli public."
Labor chairman Amir Peretz said in a meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter that he hoped the Palestinian election would not change the balance of power and that there would still be a Palestinian majority that wants to negotiate with Israel.
"Israel will not negotiate with an organization whose goal is to destroy the State of Israel," Peretz said. "Israel's obligation is to strengthen the moderates with whom we can reach a peace agreement."
Labor's strategic campaign chairman, MK Ophir Paz-Pines, accused the Right of trying to capitalize politically on a Hamas victory. "I don't think a Hamas victory will automatically strengthen the Right in Israel," Paz-Pines said. "Even if Hamas wins, they could decide to change their path."
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