1. FRIDAY FEATURE: Voting or partying?

Friday, January 27, 2006 | 
Democracy in East Jerusalem takes on a raucous atmosphere; frightening results

JERUSALEM - An elderly Arab man who has lived in Jerusalem through the British, Jordanian and now Israeli government of the city was watching some youths chanting outside a Palestinian polling station on Wednesday, but didn’t expect much from the results. “I came here to watch the comedy,” he smiled.

There wasn’t much to laugh about, however, after the results came in: the terrorist organization Hamas, which has committed dozens of suicide bombings against Israel and wants to destroy the Jewish state, won a majority of the seats.

The ruling party, Fatah, was being punished by voters for the misrule and corruption of the last 12 years, observed Mai Alami, a mother of four from Ramallah.

Her husband, Ali Khashen, had a dour outlook on Hamas’ victory.

"We may have more obstacles for the peace process just as Israel was becoming more receptive," he said. "We all formed our agenda around Fatah, and now we need a new strategy."

Israel has already said it will not negotiate with a Hamas government The US and some European nations also have said they will not deal with a Palestinian government that has Hamas at the helm. With Israeli elections coming in March, a Hamas government may push Israelis to vote more rightwing, for example, for former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party rather than Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s new centrist party, Kadima.

Dore Gold, president of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said Hamas could be the precursor for a larger and more networked organization like Al Qaeda and warned of an increase in violence.

“Israel has to understand that the Hamas victory could lead to the emergence of a terrorist entity right next to its main cities,” he said. “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.”

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