MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political analyst Marianna Belenkaya) -- News of the Thursday victory of the Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement in the territory controlled by the Palestine National Authority stunned the world.
Opinion and exit polls had not predicted an overwhelming victory for Hamas, whose Reform and Change bloc got more than 50% of the vote and the right to form the government.
Now the Palestinians' future depends on Hamas. Its policy will show what the world can expect from a radical Islamic political organization when it comes to power.
The organization can follow either Turkey's or Iran's course. But its choice between the two scenarios depends also on the actions of the world community and the situation in the region, in particular the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the events around Iran, Syria and Lebanon, as well as on whether chaos is stopped in Iraq.
At the same time, Hamas' victory will affect developments in the Middle East too, strengthening and rallying all radical and extremist movements in the short term. It will also hinder the world's attempts to put pressure on Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, as well as on Shiite and Sunnite radicals in Iraq.
In fact, the parliamentary election in Palestine showed Islamists in the Broader Middle East from North Africa to Central Asia that victory could be attained legitimately and without violence. Despite a negative attitude to Hamas, the world has to accept its victory. Islamic radicals proved to be the most astute disciples of the West, and the situation in Iraq is similar, though not obviously so.
The victory of Hamas is also a warning sign to the incumbent regional authorities. By casting their ballots for the resistance movement, most Palestinians voted not so much for the "Islamic development course" but against the policy of the current Palestinian regime: against poverty, unemployment, corruption, chaos in the sphere of security, and inability of the authorities to propel the peace process.
It may seem in this situation that the future of the Palestinian-Israeli peace plays only a minor part in the events. But it will have a daily effect on the policy of Hamas and the situation in the Middle East, because the Palestinian question had detonated many regional conflicts.
Analysts fear, with good reason, that the peace process in the Middle East will be curtailed. The founding documents of Hamas, which is on the terrorist lists of the Untied States, Israel and the European Union, do not recognize the State of Israel and uphold the idea of fighting it. Its spokesmen condition truce with Israel on the Israelis' withdrawal to the 1967 borders and recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. This is completely unacceptable to Israel.
If Hamas puts forth openly unacceptable conditions for truce (all of the previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements wisely put off the solution of the above problems until later), what would it demand in return for peace? On the other hand, would the victory of the Fateh party have brought peace closer? Moreover, Israel seems to have reached the end of possible compromises with Palestine.
In fact, elections or not, peace negotiators have done what they could, and the sides were not ready to go further now. This deadlock could have provoked another round of hostilities, like in 2000, when a second Palestinian intifada was launched. Perhaps, Hamas' victory will remove the threat of an immediate escalation of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
The vital thing for both sides is to avoid provocations. There are many extremist organizations in addition to Hamas in Palestine and a number of warlike politicians in Israel. Hamas' victory can secure them additional votes at the March election to the Knesset (parliament).
Besides, Hamas will not want to drive Palestinians into an international isolation. The movement has proclaimed a priority goal of reforms and social and economic improvements, which are impossible without external financial assistance and cooperation with the world community, primarily the United States and the European Union.
The position of the Middle East Quartet - the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN - is clear-cut. They will cooperate with a Palestinian government that recognizes the right of Israel to existence, pledges not to use military force and promotes a peace settlement. This is the condition advanced by Washington, Moscow and Brussels, which means that Hamas will eventually have to change its stand, just as Fateh led by the late Yasser Arafat did 13 years ago.
But this will not happen soon, and will call for a measure of wisdom and restraint from all the political forces in the region.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.