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Palestine | International

Palestinian PM and cabinet resign
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Thursday Jan 26th, 2006 7:48 AM
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 have to 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.

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.

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."

The US president, George Bush, said Washington would not deal with Hamas until it renounced calls for the destruction of Israel.

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.

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. The more powerful intergovernmental council has yet to comment.

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.

Mushir al-Masri, who won a seat in the northern Gaza Strip, said it wanted "unity among Palestinians" and a partnership with Fatah, but insisted peace negotiations or recognition of Israel were not on its agenda.

Israeli security officials and the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, were today holding talks about the Hamas victory.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1695230,00.html
by ALJ
Thursday Jan 26th, 2006 7:50 AM
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei and his cabinet have resigned after the Islamic resistance movement Hamas claimed victory in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections.

Qorei told journalists: "I am going to present my resignation to President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and Hamas should form the government."

Although results have yet to be confirmed by the official Palestinian election authority, officials from Abbas' ruling Fatah faction of President have confirmed claims from Hamas to have won a majority of seats.

That would put the party in position to shape a new Palestinian government - a situation that could dim prospects for restarting peace talks with Israel.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he would step down if he could no longer pursue his peace agenda with Israel.

Hamas leaders in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip have indicated that the movement may have won as many as 70 seats out of the 132 contested seats, making up the Palestinian legislative council.

Hamas' leader in Gaza, Ismael Haniyah, said he had "solid information" indicating the movement won more than 50% of the overall vote.

With results still being collated, that projection seems to be ringing true.

Hebron whitewash

In Hebron, Hamas won all the nine contested seats at the district level, with Sheikh Nayef Rajoub, coming top.

All Fatah and Fatah-affiliated candidates are reported to have failed to win seats, these include former Palestinian Authority leaders such as Jebril Rajoub (Nayef's brother), as well as former ministers Nabil Amr, Jamal Shubaki and Rafik Natsheh.

Moreover, a myriad of independent candidates have been unsuccessful in their bid to win a seat.

Conversely, Hamas performed strongly in other districts and other areas once considered solid ‘Fatah territory’, such as Nablus, Salfit, Tubas and Tulkarm.

In Ramallah, the PA capital and Fatah's stronghold, Hamas reportedly won all the four contested seats.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Hamas won all or most of the contested seats in East Jerusalem.

Likewise, in Gaza Hamas seems to have defeated Fatah in most districts.

Conceding defeat

Meanwhile, Fatah officials have begun to acknowledge that the political landscape has changed.

Fatah West Bank leader Hussein al Sheikh said during an interview with Israeli radio that Fatah was slowly coming to terms with Hamas's victory.

He said Fatah would have to have "a lot of soul searching with itself"

He also stressed that Fatah supporters ought to respect the will of the people and refrain from lawless activities.

The PA security chief blamed Israel for "Hamas' victory," saying the collapse of the peace process, rampant corruption and lawlessness have convinced the bulk of the Palestinian people that voting for Fatah is futile.

While Fatah’s defeat was a comparatively close one, leftist, liberal parties and independent candidates have apparently suffered a devastating electoral blow.

Minimal success

According to the latest results, all other lists, including Mustafa al Barghouthi's Independent Palestine, will receive only a handful of seats.

Barghouthi said during televised interview on Wednesday night that he was sure his movement would win at least 15% of the total vote.

Similarly, the Third Way, a liberal list led by former finance minister Salam Fayyad seems to have won no more than three seats.

Talal Ukal, a Palestinian commentator and political analyst, described the election as a watershed.

"It is obvious that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era and we all must come to terms and adapt to the new reality," he said on Thursday.

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/45C9C349-9BAA-4ECF-BD02-F37B93226C24.htm