Between Pragmatism and Radicalism

Authored by: Mohammed M. Hafez , Marc-André Walther

Routledge Handbook of Political Islam

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415484732
eBook ISBN: 9780203154144
Adobe ISBN: 9781136577239


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On 25 January 2006 Palestinians conducted free and fair legislative elections for the Palestine National Authority (PA). Few expected Hamas to win the landslide victory the world observed on that day. Israel and many Western countries view Hamas as an extremist Islamist organization driven by a radical religious ideology that prefers violence to peace, and suicide bombings to negotiations. The Palestinian electorate, however, gave Hamas 76 of 132 seats in the government, ending Fatah’s domination of the PA (Klein 2007: 42). This resounding victory for Hamas created a dilemma for Western states: a legitimate, democratic electoral process brought forth a party that does not recognize the state of Israel and disavows the Oslo Peace Process on which negotiations for a two-state solution is the basis for settling the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. Accepting official and direct negotiations with Hamas is unacceptable to Israel unless Hamas recognizes its right to exist and renounces violence once and for all. Rejecting talks with Hamas amounts to rebuffing the free choice of the Palestinian people and subverting the spirit of democracy. The Middle East Quartet, comprising the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the United States (US) and Russia, formed in 2002 to mediate the Palestinian– Israeli peace process, along with Israel have opted to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip and, instead, focus their aid and efforts on revitalizing the Fatah movement, currently led by President Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank (Tocci 2007: 139).

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