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Election result poses dilemma for Bush in his war on terror

January 30, 2006

By Guy Dinmore and Roula Khalaf

The Bush administration’s promotion of democracy forms the core of US foreign policy. It was the pillar of President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address a year ago and, officials say, will be reiterated in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

But having assisted Hamas – listed as a terrorist group by the US – to power through elections Washington insisted should take place, the Bush administration is now in a dilemma in the ‘war on terror’.

Does it cut off institutional aid to the Palestinians and thus choke the democratic evolution? And does the US scale back its regional ambitions following the surge of Islamists not just among Palestinians, but also in other parts of the Middle East?

Some in the administration had anticipated a Hamas victory; others were shocked by the outcome.

Mr Bush’s initial public reaction was measured. Hardly in a position to denounce the outcome of a vote widely deemed to have been fair, he called the elections a healthy process and spoke of the’power of democracy’. He said the results had shaken up the’old guar’, expressing the dominant view within the administration that the status quo among Palestinians, and in the region, was unsustainable. But he also warned that the US would not deal with Hamas as long as it opposed Israel’s existence and espoused violence.

The Hamas victory provides an extreme test case for the Bush philosophy of transformation to moderation through elections – a dream that critical’realist’ dismiss as’utopian’. Hamas will head a government without a state, with no fixed borders and much of its territory under occupation.

Full article here…

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