Newspapers in Israel and the Palestinian territory engage in an intense bout of soul-searching after MPs from the militant movement Hamas took their seats in the new Palestinian parliament on Saturday after their surprise electoral victory.
Some Israeli commentators call on their government to reach out to President Mahmoud Abbas as the moderate face of Palestinian politics and help him offset the radical policies expected to be pursued by Hamas.
Calls to take a hard line against Hamas are rejected by one commentator, who warns it could lead to a resumption of large-scale violence.
The focus in the Palestinian press is on the relationship between the Hamas government and the Abbas presidency, with the hope that the latter will be able to rein in the former. Israel's political and military influence remains a source of concern.
Roni Shaked in top circulation Yediot Aharonot
If US and Israel do not want Hamas, they have to adopt a policy that strengthens Abu Mazen (Abbas) and provides him with the ability and backing to continue to insist on policy lines. Otherwise, Hamas will defeat Abu Mazen... Abu Mazen told parliament yesterday of the demand to honour all the agreements, including Oslo and the roadmap.
Danny Rubinstein in leftist Ha'aretz
Abbas' speech to the opening session of the new Palestine Legislative Council was a particularly tough one, directed mainly at the Hamas representatives. The gist was: the Palestinian struggle did not begin yesterday; we in the Palestine Liberation Organisation have been leading it for decades; the PLO institutions discussed and approved the Oslo Accords and no-one has the right to question the legitimacy of this agreement... What was not in his speech was also important. There was no call to the countries of the world to assist the Hamas government. In the context of the arguments and discussions in Israel, the region and the entire world as to how to deal with the Hamas government, the fact that Abbas did not mention it is significant.
Editorial of National Religious Party affiliate Hatzofe
Israel insists that the new Middle East with a Hamas Palestinian Authority exists from yesterday, the moment the Palestinian parliament was sworn in. Therefore, all sanctions should begin from today. It is reasonable to assume that heavy pressure will soon be brought to bear on Israel to cancel the sanctions it imposed on the Palestinian Authority or at least to ease them. Israel must withstand those pressures. If the Palestinian public elected Hamas, let it know the price it must pay.
Editorial in Yediot Aharonot
He who does not learn from history is doomed to relive it, but in much graver circumstances. Economic pressure on the Palestinians will do what it did five years ago: it will bring more and more people to the dark edge of despair and from there the road to terrorism and suicide is shorter than ever. It will toughen a society that has nothing to lose, which believes that the Israelis understand only force. It will lead from the relative calm the region has known in the last two years back to the cycle of blood. It will be a real inferno for the Palestinians but will cost not a little Israeli blood.
Aluf Benn in leftist Ha'aretz
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will bring before the cabinet this morning the sanctions package Israel is to impose on the Palestinians in response for electing Hamas... The idea of cutting off the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is very popular in Israel... The threat to sever Gaza - which spells an end to the Oslo process and the two-state vision - is likely to remain in the background, as a doomsday weapon in case Hamas goes completely off the grid.
Editorial in Palestinian Al-Quds
There is a need for a compromise between the presidency and the premiership. What makes us optimistic is that the president and Hamas' Ismail Haniya have called for the principle of dialogue to be endorsed in order to reach a common ground.
Yusof al-Qazaz in Palestinian Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah
There were clear positions in President Mahmoud Abbas' speech yesterday. For the hundredth time, the Palestinians stretched out their hands in peace to Israel, in the hope it would end the occupation of their lands. However, in opposition to peace, Israel is trying to hold on to any excuse to maintain its war against the Palestinian people. After the president's speech, the ball is now in the Israeli and the international court.
Basim Abu-Sammiyah in Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah
Listening to (President Abbas') speech, we heard no mention of Israeli statements considering the Palestinian Authority an enemy and warning of punitive measures against our people. We heard no comment on the US demand that the PA returns $50m given to provide infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Rather than hurting parliament and Hamas, these are collective punishments directed at the entire Palestinian people, and damaging its supreme interests.
Hani Habib in Palestinian Al-Ayyam
The speech was a roadmap from which it is possible to draw the lines of Palestinian policy and the tools for its implementation... According to the constitution and the basic law, the president is the one who draws up the policies and the government implements them. If the president finds that the government is not following his policies for one reason or another, then he has the right to dismiss it.
Ryad al-Malki in Al-Ayyam
Hamas' leadership has a vital decision to take that will not only shape the forthcoming phase and reflect on our peoples' lives in the Palestinian territories but will also decide the outcome of our cause and our peoples' fate. We are all expecting a high level of responsibility, wisdom and insight from Hamas. It should avoid anything that can wedge us into any new confrontation we cannot win.
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