View Full Version : Polls Predict Slim Victory For Fatah

01-25-2006, 09:14 PM
Polls predict slim victory for Fatah


By Amos Harel, Arnon Regular and Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondents

Fatah appears to have won 58 seats followed closely by Hamas with 53 seats in Wednesday's Palestinian parliament elections, according to exit polls released Wednesday night.

The polls indicate that neither party is likely to win a majority in the 132-member parliament, meaning that it is possible Hamas could form the next government. However, senior pollster Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research said it is unlikely the party would get enough support from smaller parties and independent lists to forge a majority.

"This will give the small groups and the independents a big chance to decide (who forms a government)," Shikaki said. "It's possible that Hamas has a chance to form the next government."

A Bir Zeit University exit poll released earlier in the evening showed Fatah holding a slim lead over Hamas, with Fatah projected to win 63 seats and Hamas taking 58.

Official results of the poll, which which generated a high voter turnout, were not expected to be released before Thursday.

The day passed without any violent incidents after the Palestinian police deployed 13,000 policemen to safeguard ballot boxes.

A few squabbles transpired between Fatah and Hamas activists in Hebron, and a mass skirmish took place between the two camps near Hebron. Other incidents occurred in Gaza City and Khan Yunis. On the other hand, at voting stations in Jenin and its surrounding villages, no armed men from any organization were seen and no incidents were registered.

Due to the long lines outside polling stations in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Central Elections Committee extended the voting hours at the city's six post office branches.

Unofficial reports said the voting rate in East Jerusalem stood at about 50 percent, a much higher turnout than in the previous elections 10 years ago.

Polling stations throughout Palestinian Authority territories were closed at 7 P.M., and voter turnout reached 77.7 percent, according to the Elections Committee. Turnout in Gaza was 82 percent compared to 74 percent in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Fatah supporters celebrated in the streets Wednesday night after one exit poll showed their party ahead in the first Palestinian elections in a decade.

"Even though this is not the official result, we have to celebrate," said 22-year-old Omar Abdel Al Raouf, waving an assault rifle from his car window. "The winner is the Palestinian people."

The high turnout in Gaza, which tends to support Hamas, was apparently balanced by a substantial turnout in the West Bank, which has a much higher total vote and stronger backing for Fatah.

Shikaki's poll did indeed point to a Hamas victory in the Gaza Strip, as well as in the West Bank city of Hebron.

After voting in Ramallah, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas praised his people for overcoming great obstacles to carry out the vote. "We are so happy with this election festival," Abbas said. "So far, it's going very well, and we hope it will keep going well until the end without any troubles." Abbas added that he is ready to resume peace talks with Israel, even if Hamas joins his government following the legislative vote.

"We are ready to negotiate," Abbas told Israeli reporters who were in the West Bank city to cover the election. "We are partners with the Israelis. They don't have the right to choose their partner. But if they are seeking a Palestinian partner, this partner exists," he said.

Both Hamas and Fatah made efforts to bring as many voters as possible to the polls. In Hebron, for example, activists in both camps hired in advance all the taxis and buses there for that purpose. Hamas seemed to maintain an advantage there, since it enlisted all the large Hebron clans, and its activists distributed lists of candidates to voters outside the polls.

In Ramallah and El Bireh hundreds of activists from both camps were busy driving voters to the polling stations throughout the day.

In Gaza, Hamas seemed to have "conquered" entire regions, including Beit Hanun, Beit Lahia and the Jabalya refugee camp in the north, where activists flooded the polls.

Coordination between the IDF and the Palestinian Authority during Wednesday's elections was largely successful, with only a few problems reported.

The IDF permitted voters and election observers to pass through West Bank checkpoints. On a few occasions Palestinian policemen were allowed to travel from the cities to outlying villages to break up fights between supporters of different parties.

Israel decided that it would make no official comment on the elections.

01-26-2006, 12:21 PM
Palestinian PM and cabinet resign
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1695230,00.html)

The Palestinian prime minister and cabinet today resigned following what appeared to be a dramatic election win for Hamas.

Results are not due until this evening, but a senior official for Fatah - the formerly dominant force in Palestinian politics - conceded that the party had lost its majority in parliament.

Fatah later rejected participation in a coalition with Hamas - a move that will make peacemaking in the region more difficult. "Let Hamas alone bear its responsibilities, if it can," Ziyad Abu Ein, a Fatah official, told Reuters.

Polls had predicted a Hamas-Fatah coalition as the most likely outcome of the vote, but officials from both parties give Hamas between 70 and 75 MPs in the 132-seat parliament as constituency results came in.

As he announced his resignation, the prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, said the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, would ask Hamas to form the next government. "This is the choice of the people. It should be respected," he said.

The exit of the Qureia cabinet will change the wider politics of the region. Fatah, the party of Yasser Arafat and Mr Abbas - supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the founding charter of Hamas commits it to the destruction of the Jewish state.

The Islamist faction, which is designated as a terrorist group by the US and EU, has not launched a suicide attack since February last year, but has also refused to renounce violence against Israel. Mushir al-Masri, who won a seat for Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, insisted peace talks or recognition of Israel were not on its agenda.

Hundreds of Israeli civilians have died in nearly 60 Hamas suicide bombings.

The vote could leave the Palestinian government without international recognition, and in Israel - where a general election is due to take place in March - it will be a key influence on the reshaping of the political terrain following Ariel Sharon's stroke.

The US president, George Bush, said a party that advocated the destruction of Israel would never be partner for peace, but also hailed the result as an example of democracy in action.

"If there are people unhappy with the status quo they'll let you know. What was positive is that it is a wake up call to the leadership," he told a White House press conference.

"People are demanding honest government ... people want services, they want to raise their children in a decent environment."

Mr Bush said Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, was holding talks with the three other members of the international quartet backing the road map peace plan - the EU, UN and Russia - to work out a response to the Hamas win.

Ehud Olmert, the acting Israeli prime minister, said Israel could not trust a Palestinian leadership in which Hamas had a role. "Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the

Palestinian Authority without disarming," Mr Olmert told the US senator Joseph Biden, according to his office. "I won't hold negotiations with a government that does not stick to its most basic obligation of fighting terror."

Deep implications could be felt in the Palestinian territories themselves. As the single biggest aid donor to the Palestinian Authority, the EU's reaction to the result will determine whether the €500m from its 25 member states and common budget continue to be sent.

Israel's ambassador to the EU this week told Reuters that the bloc should have nothing to do with Hamas, even if it joined the government. Hamas today sent mixed signals on what it would do with its new-found political power.

The Brussels-based European commission, which has a limited influence on foreign policy, said it would work with any Palestinian government that used peaceful means.

Javier Solana, the more powerful EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement that the election result had created "an entirely new situation which will need to be analysed".

01-26-2006, 02:07 PM
How Israel and the United States Helped to Bolster Hamas
Democracy Now! (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/26/151252)

As Hamas wins an upset victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, we take a look at the little-known rise of the militant group with investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss, author of the new book "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam." In it, Dreyfuss reveals how the U.S. looked the other way when Israel's secret service supported the creation of Hamas.

According to Middle East analyst Dilip Hero, the success of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections comes as other Islamist groups gaining political strength in the Middle East. Last year Islamist candidates won most of the seats in the municipal elections in Saudi Arabia. In Lebannon, Hizbollah has emerged as the preeminent representative of Lebanese Shiites. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood won 60% of the seats it contested last year. And in Iraq, religious Shiite and Sunni parties performed best in December parliamentary elections.

To talk about the emergence of Hamas as a political force in the Occupied Territories, we speak with investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss. He writes about the rise of Hamas in his new book Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

* Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter and author of the book "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam." He is a contributing editor at Mother Jones, the Nation and American Prospect.


AMY GOODMAN: In light of Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections, we turn to Robert Dreyfuss right now, investigative reporter and author of the new book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. We welcome you to our Washington studio at Reuters in D.C., Robert Dreyfuss.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Hi, good morning. Always a pleasure to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. How was Hamas established?

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, gosh, you know, you can go back, really 60 or 70 years. The Hamas organization is an outgrowth, really a formal outgrowth, of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was a transnational organization founded in Egypt, which established branches in the ‘30s and ‘40s in Jordan and Palestine and Syria and elsewhere. And the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by a man named Said Ramadan, actually the father of Tariq Ramadan, who you mentioned earlier. Said Ramadan was one of the founders of the Brotherhood, who was the son-in-law of its originator, Hassan al-Banna, and he established the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and in Jerusalem in 1945. And it grew rapidly during the ‘40s and was, not surprisingly, a very conservative political Islamic Movement that had a lot of support from the Hashemite royal family of Jordan and from the king of Egypt.

This movement, as it began in the ‘40s and ‘50s, ran up against the emerging tide of Arab nationalism, and really the story of Hamas and the story of the Muslim Brotherhood is a continual battle for the last 50 years between Arab nationalists and the Arab left on one hand, and what I would call the Islamic right on the other hand. So the Hamas movement, as it grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, found itself in the 1960s fighting Arab nationalism in all of these countries, including Egypt.

When Fatah was founded in late 1950s and began taking action against Israel in guerilla warfare in the mid-60s, Hamas was -- or the Muslim Brotherhood was strongly opposed to Fatah. They grew out of the same movement. The Palestinian Fatah organization was founded really out of the League of Palestinian Students, that was a Muslim Brotherhood organization. But the nationalists broke away, and people like Khalil al-Wazir, and Salah Khalaf, and Yasser Arafat and the Hassan brothers, who founded Fatah, broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1950s.

And by 1965, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt launched its second attempt to kill Nasser at precisely the same time that Nasser was supporting the Palestinian national movement and Fatah against Israel in the areas surrounding the Israeli borders on the Egyptian front. So the Egyptian authorities arrested a man and put him in jail in 1965, named Ahmed Yassin. Ahmed Yassin, of course, is the founder of Hamas. He was, in turn -- we'll get to the end of the story -- was killed by Israel a couple of years ago. But in 1965, he was put in jail by the Egyptian authorities. And then, two years later, of course, when Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank and, of course, the Sinai peninsula after the 1967 War, the Israelis released Ahmed Yassin and a number of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

And starting in 1967, the Israelis began to encourage or allow the Islamists in the Gaza and West Bank areas, among the Palestinian exiled population, to flourish. The statistics are really quite staggering. In Gaza, for instance, between 1967 and 1987, when Hamas was founded, the number of mosques tripled in Gaza from 200 to 600. And a lot of that came with money flowing from outside Gaza, from wealthy conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But, of course, none of this could have happened without the Israelis casting an approving eye upon it.

And during these years, during that 20-year span, the Hamas organization was a bitter opponent of Palestinian nationalism, clashed repeatedly with the P.L.O. and with Fatah, of course, refused to participate in the P.L.O. umbrella. And just as during the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought against the Nasserists, the Baath Party, the communists and the rest of the Arab left, in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought against the Palestinian national movement. Now that's not even a surprise, you know. In 1970, when the king of Jordan launched his massive counter-offensive against the Palestinians there in that event called Black September, the Muslim Brotherhood was a strong supporter of the king and actually backed his effort, which resulted in thousands of Palestinians killed in a virtual civil war in Jordan.

So there's plenty of evidence that the Israeli intelligence services, especially Shin Bet and the military occupation authorities, encouraged the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and the founding of Hamas. There are many examples and incidents of that. But there were armed clashes, of course, on Palestinian university campuses in the ‘70s and ‘80s, where Hamas would attack P.L.O., PFLP, PDFLP and other groups, with clubs and chains. This was before guns became prominent in the Occupied Territories.

Even that, however -- there's a very interesting and unexplained incident. Yassin was arrested in 1983 by the Israelis. On search of his home, they found a large cache of weapons. This would have been a fairly explosive event, but for unexplained reasons, a year later Yassin was quietly released from prison. He said at the time that the guns were being stockpiled not to fight the Israeli occupation authorities, but to fight other Palestinian factions.

That and other incidents gave rise to -- a number of diplomats and intelligence people who I interviewed, saying that there was plenty of reason to think that the Israelis were fostering the growth of Hamas. And, of course, Yasser Arafat himself, in a famous quote to a newspaper reporter a number of years ago, explicitly described Hamas as, quote, “a creature of Israel.” And he said that he discussed this with Yitzhak Rabin during their Oslo process. And Rabin told Arafat that it was “a fatal error” for the Israelis to have encouraged the growth of Hamas. The theory of it, of course, was that Hamas would be a force against Palestinian nationalism. And I think it's clear that it ended up, to a shocking degree, backfiring against overall Israeli policy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Robert Dreyfuss, the role of the United States in all of this; obviously, the U.S. -- and many people don't recall -- that in the ‘60s and ‘70s, was not only worried about the P.L.O. itself, but the other groups you mentioned, the Popular Front and the Democratic Popular Front, which were even more radical and leftist groups than Fatah. The role of the United States while Israel was fostering a development of this movement within the Occupied Territories?

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, the United States, of course, has had one constant, that it was a major supporter of Israel and considered Israel an ally, so anything that looked like Palestinian nationalism was seen as a threat to Israel, and the United States, as you might expect, like Israel, refused to even discuss or admit the existence, during those early years, of Palestinians as a force or Palestinian nationalism.

But, of course, the other big ally of the United States in the Middle East was Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia was the main engine and source of support for the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the entire Middle East. So I don't think there's any question that the United States was happy to see the growth of the Islamic Movement in those early years.

The clearest example of this, and I talk about this at length in my book, is when Nasser finally died in 1970 and Anwar Sadat took over as president of Egypt, he had no political base. And so, Sadat encouraged the Muslim Brotherhood to come back to Egypt, and they did, beginning in 1971. Said Ramadan led a Saudi-supported delegation to meet with Sadat. The Brotherhood came back into Egypt and began to organize, with Sadat's official encouragement, and certainly with the knowledge and support of the United States, a powerful political constituency for the Islamists in Egypt. And they not only created mosques, but took over al-Azhar, the main center of the Islamic thought in Cairo and, really, in the world, some people would say, and became a major political and religious presence in Egypt, as well.

Not only that, the United States and Israel, apparently with Jordan's help, too, encouraged the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria in a virtual civil war that began in the 1970s. There were training camps in Jordan and in Lebanon, supported by King Hussein and by the Israelis, with full knowledge of the United States, to train Muslim Brotherhood commandos to try to destabilize the Syrian regime. So the Muslim Brotherhood was a sort of an underground force that was roughly allied, to a significant degree, with America's allies in the Middle East. And the Syrian Civil War, the Lebanese Civil War, the Jordanian Black September Civil War, many of these conflicts that all revolved around control of the Middle East and, in a larger sense, control of the Middle East oil resources, pit the United States against anything that looked like a nationalist force.

01-26-2006, 02:07 PM
Part Two

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter, author of the new book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. We've talked about Hamas, which, as you point out, means “zeal”?

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Yes, the words "Islamic Resistance Movement" form the letters that create Hamas, H.M.S., and Hamas, in turn, in Arabic means "zeal."

AMY GOODMAN: Let's turn now to another country very much in the news, and that's Iran. What about the role of the United States in fundamentalist Iran?

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, you know, in researching my book, I found myself sitting at lunch one day next to an old gentleman. I asked him -- this was at an old retired C.I.A. officers' conference. And it turned out his name was John Waller. And John Waller, who died last year, was then in his eighties. And I spent several hours interviewing him later on. He was the first C.I.A. station chief in Iran, beginning in 1947, and he served there six years until he returned to Washington in 1953 to coordinate the coup d'etat against Mohammed Mosedeq, an Iranian nationalist, who had just nationalized Iran's oil industry. And, of course, that was the coup that restored the Shah of Iran to his throne after he had fled Iran.

And Waller described to me how the United States reached out to a man named Ahmed Kashani, an ayatollah in Iran and the mentor of Ayatollah Khomeini, in fact. Kashani was then really the king of all Islam in Iran. He worked with an organization, an underground movement called the Devotees of Islam, which was an unofficial branch, again, of the Muslim Brotherhood, even though it was a Shiite organization and the Brotherhood is mostly Sunni. And so, in the 1953 coup d'etat, the United States paid money to Kashani and his religious forces, and they provided the demonstrators, who in turn went out into the streets, saying, "Down with Mosadeq! Bring back the Shah!"

And ironically, one of the great ironies of this story was that Ayatollah Khomeini, himself, who later became the undisputed dictator of Iran in 1979, ‘81, well, Khomeini himself was in the street with his mentor, Kashani, saying, “Down with Mosedeq! Bring back the Shah!” And so, while the Iranian Shiite religious fundamentalist movement was always suspicious of the Shah and certainly clashed with him repeatedly over the next 25 years, its prime enemy was communism and nationalism. And you even found, after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, people like Zbigniew Brzezinski and our ambassador in Iraq now, Zalmay Khalilzad, both argued that Khomeini was a greater threat to the Soviet Union than to the United States and that Islam would destabilize Central Asia, would rouse the Muslims of the Central Asian Muslim republics.

Now, that did not happen. But what did happen was that the United States supported the jihad in Afghanistan, and precisely on that theory that this jihad would not only get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but would then spread across the border into the Soviet republics. Ironically, I guess, during all of this period, one little-known fact is that the neoconservatives in the 1980s, who were a minority force, not quite the dominant power they are now under the Bush administration, argued vociferously that the United States was wrong in tilting toward Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. They argued for a tilt in favor of Iran. And that's what led exactly to the Iran-Contra Affair, which had its roots in the neoconservative belief that the United States’ true partner in the Gulf was Iran, even though it was led by Khomeini. They felt that there were people there, Rafsanjani and others, that they could deal with.

One of the things I report quite extensively in my book is that throughout the entire Iran-Iraq War, Israel provided significant and steady supply of weapons to Iran. From 1979, and especially after the war with Iraq began, in 1980, the Israelis would meet once a month in Geneva with an Iranian air force team, and the Iranians would give Israel a shopping list. And the Israelis then provided a steady supply of weapons to Iran during its war with Iraq. This is somewhat acknowledged, but basically an unknown footnote to history. Yet it shows, I think, part of the underhanded way in which the Islamists have been seen from time to time as convenient partners, especially during the Cold War, of both the United States, the British and the Israelis, all of whom had their hand in supporting Islamists of one branch or another.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Dreyfuss, we're going to have to leave it there. We thank you very much for being with us and for writing the book. It's called Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.