Shalom: Hamas victory would set region back 50 yrs

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has warned that a victory of the Islamic Hamas party in Palestinian parliamentary elections on Jan. 25 will set the region back 50 years. In comments broadcast Saturday, Shalom said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must keep Hamas from participating in elections since the group has carried out numerous deadly attacks against Israel. "The participation of Hamas in the elections can put us back 50 years," Shalom told Israel Radio. "Today is the time is to make the tough decision, the strategic decision, to dismantle the terror infrastructure, to go to elections with the intent of afterward going to peace with Israel." The Palestinian territories are in danger of becoming "Hamastan" if Hamas does well in the elections, Shalom said. Shalom labeled as "very important" a decision Friday by the US House of Representatives that the Palestinian Authority risks losing US financial aid and other support if it permits Hamas to participate in the parliamentary elections. The United States includes Hamas on its list of terror organizations. Foreign Ministry officials said Friday that if Hamas were to become a dominant force in the Palestinian leadership, it would mean an end to the peace process.