Leading article: This is the voice of the Palestinian people


Hamas's stunning victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections opens up a new era in the history of the Middle East. Though Hamas was always expected to do well, few anticipated that it would emerge as the dominant force in Palestinian politics. And no one predicted that the hegemony of the Fatah party would be so comprehensively overturned. Hamas itself hinted throughout the campaign that it would be willing to serve as a junior partner in a Fatah-led coalition. But winning a solid majority of 76 parliamentary seats means that Hamas is now in a position to form a government on its own. Whether it expected it or not, Hamas finds that power has been thrust into its hands.

There can be no doubt over the legitimacy of the Hamas victory. An impressive 78 per cent of registered Palestinian voters turned out. Impartial election observers vouched for the integrity of the poll. There was little violence and no allegations of fraud. The world has long demanded democracy from the Palestinians. Now they have it. Indeed, that the Palestinian Authority was able to organise such a successful election under conditions of military occupation by Israel makes this an especially impressive feat.

What lies behind the Hamas victory is clear. The party was able to capitalise on huge popular discontent with the corrupt Fatah government. But Hamas was also successful because it offered the Palestinian people a vision of a more dignified future. The group's record of providing local educational and health programmes to poor Palestinians was the root of its popularity. The only genuine surprise about the result was the final scale of the Hamas victory.

But the emergence of Hamas does raise some profoundly difficult questions about the prospects for peace in the region. Everyone wants to know if Hamas will change its founding charter to recognise the right of Israel to exist. Will it call an end to its suicide bombing campaign as part of the price of exercising political power? Or will its leaders drag the Palestinian people into painful international isolation by sticking to their hard-line founding principles? The answers to these questions will determine whether Israel decides to deal with the Palestinian Authority, and whether the US and the European Union continue to send aid. The fate of this region now hinges, to a large extent, on what route Hamas decides to go down.

But Hamas is likely to postpone any major decisions about its future until it has cleared out corrupt Fatah officials and consolidated its position in government. And Israel's response to this new reality will be unclear until it has held its elections in March. This means that the peace process and all questions about the "road-map" are likely to be on the back burner for several months. The best way for the rest of the world to further the prospects of peace at this time is to encourage a period of stability. The Quartet - the mediating group of powers made up of Russia, the UN, the EU and the US - will meet early next week to discuss the implications of this result. So too, separately, will EU foreign ministers. A period of reflection from all would be best.

We, naturally, hope that Hamas will find the pressures to go fully down the political route irresistible. And there are encouraging signs that this is already happening. But we understand the fears of those who regard this result as dangerous, both for the Palestinians and the Israelis. Yet, in the end, the mixed feelings of the rest of the world about the result this election has delivered are irrelevant. The democratic voice of the Palestinian people has been heard. And we must now deal with the new reality.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Pensions

£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Client Services Executive / Account Executive - SW London

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Executive / Client Services ...

PA to CEO / Executive Secretary

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Executive PA to CEO & Executive Dire...

Day In a Page

Read Next

August catch-up: dress to impress, words to use more often, and the end of the internet

John Rentoul
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis