Candidate for PA foreign minister says Hamas must become pragmatic

For the second night in a row, celebratory gunfire echoed through the streets of this city. The only difference was the color of the flags the gunmen were waving. In a dramatic turn of events, Gazans discovered Thursday that Hamas, the party most of them had voted for, actually won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. "One way or another, the basis for the new government has to be power sharing," said Ziyad Abu Amar, an independent candidate who won a PLC seat on the Gaza City local list and is tipped as a possible foreign minister in a Hamas-led government. "Hamas will have to make the adjustment from an opposition and resistance movement to a political movement" which runs a government. Such a move should force Hamas to become more pragmatic "at the expense of ideology," he said. The ideal arrangement, Abu Amar said, would be a unity government in which Hamas could deflect the criticism leveled at Fatah for being corrupt, and Fatah could serve as the Palestinian Authority's face to the Western world. "The two groups can provide cover for one another," he said. Experiencing the first day of a Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip - long a stronghold for the group - most of them could not have been more pleased. "It's great, we got more seats than even we thought we would," said Nabil Ismil, 27, who owns a clothing store. The strong vote for Hamas, he said, was a show of strength directed at Israel. "The Jewish people will not respond to anybody weak, but will only respond to strength. The Jews didn't get out of Gaza from negotiations, they got out from resistance and we want to continue the struggle," he said. In a Hamas campaign branch in the Rimel neighborhood, Hamas partisans, many of them youths, were led in a victory cheer by the campaign manger for the neighborhood. "What's your way? Allah!" Muhammad el-Baya, 51, shouted with his minions, clad in green hats and sashes, sounding in response. "What is your way? Resistance!" Earlier, surrounded by the excited crowd, Baya said Hamas's victory was a tribute to the movement's youth, who campaigned tirelessly. He also credited the Islamic leanings of the majority of people in the Strip with propelling the underdog party to power. "The Islamic education of the young people helped Hamas because they are so disciplined," Baya said. "We are living in an Islamic society where people love Islam, and it showed in this election." At the home of Said Siam, a Hamas leader here who won a PLC seat, supporters crowded his courtyard to offer congratulations. As reporters interviewed him, gunfire erupted on the street from Hamas members who came to celebrate. "I told everyone not to fire guns, but they came all the way from Rafah and must not have got the message," said Siam, chuckling and shifting his beads. Known as one of its more moderate leaders, Siam said Hamas wants to find common ground among all the Palestinian factions to form an inclusive government. Where the peace process is concerned, he left open the possibility of negotiating with Israel, but also of resuming violent resistance. But before Hamas turns its attention to foreign affairs, it must first deal with internal matters, Siam said. Whether it wants to place one of its officials as prime minister, and whether its terrorist wing, Izzadin al-Kassam, disarms or merges with the PA security forces were both matters requiring consensus within the party, he said. Fatah supporters, now the minority in political influence in addition to street support here, lamented their defeat. "It's so sad, we don't know what the future of our country will be," said taxi driver Kamal Abu Foz, 42. "The international community and Israel won't deal with Hamas, and Hamas can't deliver us a state."