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Hamas to Participate in Palestinian Parliamentary Elections

The Islamic militant group Hamas has announced that it will participate in Palestinian parliamentary elections in July. This could have consequences for efforts to jumpstart the peace process.

The decision by the powerful Islamic militant group Hamas to join the election process could undermine efforts by the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to revive peace talks with Israel. Hamas, which is very popular in the Gaza Strip, seeks the destruction of Israel through armed resistance.

But Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is putting a positive spin on the Hamas decision.

"We're speaking about a democracy, and in a democracy you don't guarantee the results of the elections," he said.

But if Hamas makes a strong showing in parliamentary elections in July, it could decide that it has the popular support to continue suicide bombings against Israel. And that's why Israel is demanding that Hamas be disarmed. The Palestinian Authority is reluctant to confront Hamas head on, fearing it would lead to civil war.

"We are not going to tolerate multiple authorities,” Mr. Erekat said. “One authority, one rule, one law."

But Hamas is not the Palestinian Authority's only problem.

In Gaza, about 2500 unemployed Palestinians stormed the parliament building, throwing stones at police and breaking windows. Tens of thousands of impoverished Palestinians lost jobs in Israel during the past 4.5 years of fighting. For many of them, the struggle with Israel is of less concern than where to find their next meal.