The shock of the landslide victory of Hamas in the January 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections has confronted all interested parties with stark problems and choices with little preparation. It is not merely that the extent of the Hamas electoral triumph was unanticipated by so many and that the various parties to the conflict assumed a post-election environment and set of issues far different from the ones they are actually facing. The situation is especially murky because of the nature of Hamas: The language and arguments it uses depart so sharply from those used by other actors that it is difficult to discern a rhetorical feint from a sincere initiative.
In an effort to clarify options and possible outcomes, this analysis will address four questions:
• What did Palestinians vote for on January 25?
• What agenda and set of priorities is Hamas likely to pursue?
• What is Hamas likely to be able to do with a parliamentary majority?
• What choices do Western donor states have—is there any possibility of coaxing Hamas into a more promising set of positions regarding Israel?
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