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Press Review: Europe Concerned Over Hamas Win

DW staff (gh/sms)January 27, 2006

As politicians call on Hamas to recognize Israel and denounce terrorism, the international press is concerned about the prospects for peace in the Middle East and who is to blame for Hamas' success.

European papers debated which was is Palestine headedImage: AP

Vienna's Standard found plenty of people to blame for Hamas' electoral victory, "The Palestinian Authority under the corrupt leadership of Yassir Arafat first of all; the EU Commission, which pumped money into Gaza and Ramallah without ensuring the principles of good governance; and finally Israel's government, which supported the Islamists during the first Intifada at the end of the 80s to weaken Arafat's PLO."

The Polish Rzeczpospolita newspaper drew a similar conclusion in its editorial. "Much of the blame lies with the USA and the EU for tolerating the ubiquitous corruption that their financing enabled," the paper opined. "Israel and the western countries did not do enough to pull the Palestinians from their misery. Now it will be even more difficult."

Wahlen in Palästina Hamas Reaktionen
Papers agreed Hamas' victory could make peace more difficultImage: AP

Hamas' legislative victory opened "an earthquake that promises turbulent times in the Middle East," according to the Spanish daily El Pais. "The Israeli stage has already lost a central player with Sharon's stroke," the paper wrote. "With Hamas' invasion to the center of Palestinian power another key player has entered who is only going to make the situation more difficult."

What the future would bring Palestinians was the focus of Brussels' De Morgen. "The masks will fall when the new government is put together, and not just in regard to Israel," the paper remarked. "Hamas wants to create a Muslim state for the Palestinians where religion is the highest law of the land."

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that it's the West's response to the new government that will play the largest role in the Middle East's future. "The way the West, Europeans and Americans, respond to this development will be an important factor in determining how seriously Muslims take the demands for democratization," the paper noted. "Moreover, a Palestinian government in which Hamas is a coalition partner cannot ignore the fact that the West plays a pivotal role in financing the upkeep of the Palestinian territories."

"A pointed dilemma" is beginning for Europeans, according to Milan's Corriere della Sera. "From now on, ignoring the power of Hamas is impossible," the daily reflected. "But to try to bend today's Hamas with the European Union's traditional carrot-without-a-stick diplomacy of negotiations and money could lead to catastrophe." The Italian paper recommended the EU be "determined to confront Hamas with resolve and ready to react against hate, violence and terror at every opportunity."

Wahlen in Palästina Hamas Reaktionen
Many papers pointed out that the EU is a major financer of the Palestinian AuthorityImage: AP

Moscow's Kommersant didn't give up hope for peace. "The world is witness to an experiment that is trying to find an alternative to the violent destruction of radical movements that are kept out of their countries' political processes," it observed, and the experiment isn't over. "When Hamas comes to power and stays in power, the experiment's failure has to be admitted," the paper wrote. "But what will happen if Hamas unexpectedly changes, and the example becomes contagious. What will politicians who have based their leadership on the fight against terrorism do then?"

Portugal's Correio da Manha stated that peace talks needed to continue with Hamas, a step many Western leaders are avoiding. "The Hamas victory was won at the ballot box, democratically," the paper pointed out. "Certain European leaders are already quick with criticism and threats. This is a mistake and a dangerous one, because if these elections were conducted in accordance with democratic principles, then it is vital for us to respond with a peace-seeking diplomacy adapted to the new situation. Even is this means we have to negotiate with radicals and terrorists. Negotiating does not mean surrendering."

The gravity of the situation was not enough to keep De Volkskrant from mentioning that a little bit of schadenfreude could hardly be repressed. "Fatah's spectacular loss is one of the most well-deserved punishments for the apparatchik and people pulling the strings who made the Palestinian Authority into a pool of incompetence and corruption," the Dutch paper wrote. "The outside world has to take credit for that since, for the dear cause of peace, it looked away from Palestinian mismanagement. This is what you get."