by Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas's public condemnation of the killing of Osama bin Laden means that Abbas could soon find himself sitting in the same government with Al-Qaeda supporters – a government that would, of course, rely on American and European taxpayer money.
Hamas boycotted the 1996 Palestinian parliamentary election on the pretext that the vote was being held under the umbrella of the Oslo Accords, which the movement does not recognize because it would mean accepting Israel's right to exist.
It would be a big mistake to allow Hamas to take advantage of the Oslo Accords once again to run in an election.
The Americans and Europeans must make it clear to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that his new partners in Hamas should accept the two-state solution, renounce violence and honor the Oslo Accords as a pre-condition for joining a unity government or running in an election.
Abbas must do this before, and not after, he goes to the UN in September to demand recognition of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines. If he fails to do so, and if the UN votes in favor of a state in September, the world could wake up one day to discover a Hamas-controlled state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As a full partner in a unity government with Fatah, Hamas would now also be responsible for what happens in the West Bank, and not only in the Gaza Strip.
The deal will facilitate Hamas's effort to extend its control beyond the Gaza Strip because the movement would now have ministers in charge the entire Palestinian Authority-controlled territories.
Hamas announced this week that it would contest the next presidential election for the Palestinian Authority.
The announcement came on the eve of the signing of the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation accord between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo. The agreement calls for the establishment of a temporary unity government that would prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections, which are supposed to take place within a year.
This means that Hamas would have at least one year to prepare itself for the elections. Hamas's chances of winning both votes are good, especially given the fact that many Palestinians see the reconciliation agreement as a victory for the Islamist movement and its ideology.
In the eyes of many Palestinians, the accord is an admission of the failure of Fatah's peace strategy with Israel. Fatah leaders have reinforced this belief by declaring that the peace process with Israel was dead and that the Palestinians could no longer rely on the US Administration as an honest broker.
In January 2006, Hamas was permitted to run in the Palestinian parliamentary election unconditionally. The Americans and Europeans even put pressure on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to allow Hamas candidates to participate in the vote.
If there are once again no conditions placed on the the upcoming election, who will benefit other than Hamas and Al Qaeda?
Khaled Abu Toameh
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