Hamas could give strong boost to other Islamic militant groups

Hamas' apparent win in Palestinian parliamentary elections brought jubilation Thursday from some Arabs, and could give a strong boost to other Islamic militant groups, whose stated aim is to fight Israel and America's perceived influence. "This is a victory to all the region's free people," said Ayyoub Muhanna, a 29-year-old Lebanese who owns a spare parts shop in the southeast town of Rashaya. "The Palestinians gave their vote to the party that gave of its blood."

But while Hamas' victory proved the group's popularity over the ruling Fatah party, the victory also could backfire on the militant party, some analysts said. "Hamas' role was greatly respected and embraced because it was a resistance movement," Sami Moubayed, a Syrian analyst, told the Associated Press.

"Now, they will naturally be prone to fail like any other movement that entered the political arena, because they will have a very hard time to deliver on their promises," he said. "The Palestinian Authority is corrupt and Hamas will now share the blame," he added. "Resistance is something very honorable. Politics is a dirty game."

Leaders of both Hamas and the ruling Fatah Party said Thursday that Hamas had won an outright majority of parliamentary seats, although official results were not yet available. That gives them the right to form the next Palestinian government, although it was not clear if they would choose to do so.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, will remain head of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is responsible for dealings with Israel.

Dawood al-Shirian, a Saudi who hosts a political talk show on Dubai TV, said a Hamas win "will reflect positively on the political process, because Hamas has a good reputation in the Palestinian street." Hamas' participation in the political process is also "an indirect recognition" of the 1993 Oslo agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis, which the group has long rejected, because the Palestinian Authority was founded as a result of the Oslo agreement, al-Shirian said.

Al-Shirian said he expected the group to be tough negotiators if peace talks are reopened between Israelis and Palestinians, reports the AP. I.L.

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