On This Day – 26 January 2006

Hamas wins the Palestinian Legislative Council elections 26 January 2006

On 25 January 2006, elections took place for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the parliament of the Palestinian Authority (PA) set up under the 1993-95 Oslo Accords with Israel. The following day, the results showed that the Islamist terrorist group Hamas had defeated the ruling Fatah party by taking 74 of the 132 seats with 44.5 per cent of the vote to Fatah’s 43 seats with 41.4 per cent of the vote. Fatah had previously held 68 of the 88 seats in a smaller PLC. Neither earlier opinion polls nor exit polls had predicted a Hamas victory.
Hamas defeated Fatah not only in its own base area of the Gaza Strip but even in West Bank Fatah strongholds such as Ramallah and east Jerusalem. The result came as a shock to western observers, not least to the US which donated almost $250 million each year to the PA. President George W. Bush had placed his faith in democracy to deliver a Fatah win that might end the Second Intifada and restart the peace process with Israel.

Hamas’s goal of eliminating Israel is enshrined in its founding Charter (1988). Since it refused to recognise not only Israel’s legitimacy but that of the Oslo Accords, and refused to renounce violence, President Bush’s Middle East policy was effectively torpedoed. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, (elected separately a year earlier), was forced to look on as a new government was sworn in with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister on 29 March.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya celebrates win (Photo: AP)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya celebrates 2006 win (Photo: AP)

Yet, despite its election victory, polls showed that two-thirds of Palestinian Arabs supported a change in the Hamas policy of refusing recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and a majority also favoured a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel. In reality, Hamas’ victory was due to the popularity of its two campaign promises: (i) to end corruption and (ii) to improve internal security.

The wider context to all this is important. Just four months earlier, in the hope of peace and as a trial run for Palestinian independence, Israel had completed the unilateral withdrawal of its military and all 9,000 of the Jewish settlers from Gaza. It was an expensive and traumatic process that caused deep anguish and discord among Israelis, with many of the settlers having to be dragged from their homes. Hamas had been responsible for the majority of the suicide bombings and other terror attacks that had killed 1,137 and wounded over 8,000 Israelis since the start of the Intifada in September 2000. In addition, it had fired nearly 600 rockets and 1,800 mortars from Gaza into southern Israel, forcing the closure of the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Industrial Zone on Gaza’s border where thousands of Palestinian workers had been employed.
The story of how Hamas’s election victory led on to its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip 17 months later and the Israeli-Egyptian blockade is for another blog. Suffice it to say that, despite President Bush’s belief that ‘democracy yields peace’, it was evident that an election held without a culture of democracy may lead in the opposite direction.

Instead of bringing peace, the election result emboldened Hamas to ignore the wishes of ordinary Palestinians, to escalate the conflict and to drag its people into three successive wars with the Jewish state.

By Dermot Meleady

Sources:

Palestinian Legislative Elections: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/palestinian-legislative-elections-january-2006
Results of PSR Exit Polls for Palestinian PLC Elections: http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/478
Globes: Erez Industrial Zone to be closed: https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-803625
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre: https://twitter.com/terrorisminfo?lang=en

 

 
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