Hamas' Strong Showing Poses Problem for U.S., Israel

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says that a strong showing by Hamas in Wednesday's Palestinian election could turn out to be a thorn in the side of both Israel and the Bush administration.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

A strong showing today for the Islamist Hamas movement in Palestinian Parliamentary elections. Unofficial exit polls show Hamas running not far behind the ruling Fatah party. That makes it likely that Hamas will play a role in a new Palestinian government. Today, President Bush told the Wall Street Journal he would not deal with any Hamas leaders until the organization renounces its call for the destruction of the State of Israel. NPR Senior News analyst, Daniel Schorr has these thoughts on the Palestinian election.

DANIEL SCHORR: The astute Palestinian demographer, Khalil Shikaki, had it doked out four years ago. Palestinians were getting fed up with the corrupt old guard Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat, which was increasingly being challenged by militant groups led by Hamas, Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas has made its entrance onto the national electoral stage, calling itself the Change and Reform Party. The relative success of Hamas, a philanthropic as well as political organization, in the election, is likely to represent a major headache for both Israel and the Bush Administration, both of which have banned any dealings with Hamas as a terrorist organization. The White House said today that nothing has changed.

The Bush Administration sank $1.9 million of aid money into the Fatah-led government during the campaign. Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a speech yesterday that seemed to be addressed to Palestinian voters, backed the creation of a Palestinian state as outlined in the so-called Roadmap Plan, and said that Israel was willing to yield part of the West Bank if only to retain a Jewish majority in the Jewish state.

P: democratic elections are fine but what do you do when the wrong guys win? If no way is found out of the stalemate, then Israel may do what Sharon did with Gaza, unilaterally withdraw from parts of the West Bank and announce Israel's final borders.

Whatever happens, it seems clear that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is entering a new phase with Hamas as a player. It could be called the post-Arafat post-Sharon era. This is Daniel Schorr.

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