[Senate Prints 109-55]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]


109th Congress                                                  S. Prt.
                            COMMITTEE PRINT                     
 2d Session                                                      109-55
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     


 
                    PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
                         ELECTIONS--CHALLENGES
                           OF HAMAS' VICTORY

                               __________

                           STAFF TRIP REPORT

                                 TO THE

                     COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                       One Hundred Ninth Congress

                             Second Session

                              January 2006

                                     





                    U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
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                     COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                  RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana, Chairman

CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska                JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware
LINCOLN CHAFEE, Rhode Island         PAUL S. SARBANES, Maryland
GEORGE ALLEN, Virginia               CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut
NORM COLEMAN, Minnesota              JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts
GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio            RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin
LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee           BARBARA BOXER, California
JOHN E. SUNUNU, New Hampshire        BILL NELSON, Florida
LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska               BARACK OBAMA, Illinois
MEL MARTINEZ, Florida
                 Kenneth A. Myers, Jr., Staff Director
              Antony J. Blinken, Democratic Staff Director

                                  (ii)




                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              
                                                                   Page
Letter of Transmittal............................................     v

Key Challenges:

    Political Challenge--Counterterrorism vs. Promoting Democracy     1

    Recommendation...............................................     8

    Economic Challenge--Cut off Aid vs. Stability................     8

    Recommendation...............................................    12

    Security Challenge--Integration, Instability, or War.........    12

    Recommendation...............................................    15

Conclusion.......................................................    15

Annex I..........................................................    17

                                 (iii)




                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              

                                                  January 31, 2006.
    Dear Colleagues:

    The Palestinian elections held on January 25, 2006, 
resulted in a disconcerting victory for Hamas, a group 
designated by United States law as a Foreign Terrorist 
Organization (FTO). The Hamas-sponsored Coalition for Change 
and Reform party won 74 of 132 seats in the Palestinian 
Legislative Council, taking control from the Palestinian 
Authority's ruling Fatah party. The United States and others in 
the international community are assessing the challenges 
presented by Hamas' victory for our national interests and 
policies.
    Ms. Kim Savit, a Senior Professional Staff Member of the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee witnessed the election as an 
official Palestinian Election Observer with the National 
Democratic Institute and The Carter Center (NDI/CC). I extend 
the Committee on Foreign Relations' thanks to NDI/CC for 
inviting Ms. Savit to join the extraordinary Observer 
Delegation of experts and officials led by former President 
Jimmy Carter. I am pleased to share with you her trip report 
and her recommendations which may be helpful as the Committee 
on Foreign Relations considers the serious foreign policy 
issues raised by the election results.
    I look forward to continuing to work with you on these 
issues and to any comments you might have on this report.
            Sincerely,
                                          Richard G. Lugar,
                                                          Chairman.

                                  (v)



                    PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
                         ELECTIONS--CHALLENGES
                           OF HAMAS' VICTORY

                              ----------                              

    The Palestinian elections on January 25, 2006, have been 
described as a ``political tsunami,'' an enormous, 
unpredictable, destructive wave which will change the political 
landscape of the Middle East forever. No one, it seems--except, 
possibly, Hamas--was prepared for the stunning victory of the 
Hamas Coalition for Change and Reform, which won 74 of 132 
seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, taking control 
from the ruling Fatah party. The United States, Israel, and the 
international community are now struggling to assess the impact 
of this profound change in the Palestinian Authority on their 
national interests and policies.
    As an official Palestinian Election Observer with the 
National Democratic Institute and Carter Center (NDI/CC) from 
January 20-27, 2006, Ms. Kim Savit, Senior Professional Staff 
Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, witnessed the 
elections process first hand, talked with delegation experts, 
and met with United States, Palestinian, and Israeli officials 
before, during and after the elections. An NDI/CC Preliminary 
Statement on the elections results published January 26, 2006, 
(attached at Annex I) reflects the International Observer 
Delegation's relatively positive assessment of the election 
administration, voting and counting process. The political, 
economic, and security challenges presented by Hamas' victory, 
however, are being hotly debated around the globe.
    The new realities in the region require rethinking 
assumptions about a wide range of issues and giving careful 
consideration to how to best influence the future of the 
Palestinians, the Israelis and the Middle East peace process. 
United States policymakers face difficult choices within this 
new Middle East landscape, but may also find unexpected new 
opportunities.
    The following report outlines some of the challenges 
resulting from Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections and 
provides recommendations for congressional consideration as 
legislation is proposed to address these issues.

                             Key Challenges


     POLITICAL CHALLENGE--COUNTERTERRORISM VS. PROMOTING DEMOCRACY


    The United States administration has pursued two primary 
policy priorities in the Middle East--fighting terrorism and 
promoting democracy. The success of Hamas, a U.S.-designated 
terrorist organization, in a free and fair democratic election 
against the more nationalist and secular Fatah, challenges 
these U.S. policies. What should be our objectives and strategy 
for dealing with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority? Do we want 
Hamas to moderate and change its position as the Palestinian 
Liberation Organization did years ago, and become a legitimate 
governing party of a new Palestinian Authority? Or, do we want 
Hamas to fail, hoping that in the process, its extremist 
positions and the violence it has perpetuated will be 
discredited? Would either path lead to peace negotiations with 
Israel and a new era of Palestinian democracy? And which path 
is the best in terms of United States national security 
interests related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the 
entire Middle East?
Democratic Elections
    The Palestinian Legislative Elections were an extraordinary 
example of democracy in practice, as over 1 million people 
exercised their right to choose their leaders in a process 
described by international observers as ``free, fair, and 
secure.'' The overwhelming victory of the Hamas Coalition for 
Change and Reform Party has been characterized by most 
observers as a ``protest'' vote against the corruption and 
incompetence of the long ruling Fatah party, not as a mandate 
for the Hamas platform of armed resistance against Israel. This 
assessment may be a comfort to those who viewed the 
Palestinians' choice as one between ``murderers or thieves,'' 
one side directed at external events, the other hitting voters 
at home. But, even if the Palestinians' choice was for the 
lesser of two evils, the Hamas platform, calling for armed 
struggle, including the slogan ``one hand resists, while the 
other builds'' cannot be discounted.
    The prevailing assumption that Hamas never expected nor 
wanted to have full control of the Palestinian Legislative 
Council or the Cabinet seems to ignore the reality on the 
ground. Hamas' success resulted from a very sophisticated, 
well-calculated strategy and plan for taking over the 
Palestinian Authority.

   At nearly every polling station, Change and Reform 
        party observers were present, well prepared with voter 
        lists, disciplined, well-trained and professional in 
        getting their voters to the polls. Hamas presented a 
        unified, consolidated list in each district while Fatah 
        and other parties had multiple candidates, which 
        divided voter support among the different groups.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ Baskin, Gershon; ``OPTICAL ILLUSION, The Hidden Results of the 
Palestinian Elections'' Tuesday, January 31, 2006; IPCRI-News--
[email protected] ``In the final outcome of the Palestinian 
elections the Hamas party took 74 seats of the 132 available seats. 
This equals 56%. On the district lists Hamas gained 68.18% of the seats 
with non-Hamas candidates taking on 31.82% of the seats. But in 
reality, in the districts Hamas candidates received only 36.45% of the 
votes while non-Hamas candidates received 63.54% of the votes. In 
reality, a clear majority of Palestinians voted against the Hamas.''

   Hamas' success was more than just a well-run 
        campaign. According to one Palestinian Authority 
        official, the Change and Reform party had calculated 
        well in advance of the election that it would win at 
        least 72 seats, far in excess of the 67 needed for a 
        majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council. After 
        the election Hamas quickly called for formation of a 
        national unity government.
    These actions suggest that while there may be some who were 
unprepared for the magnitude of the Change and Reform party's 
success, Hamas was much less surprised by its own victory than 
the rest of the world. 



   Election officials displaying ballot to observers to verify vote.



  Hamas campaign poster ``one hand resists, while the other builds.''



Hamas was less surprised by its own victory than the rest of the world.



           Fatah campaign posters included Arafat and Abbas.

Policy Response
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the 
United States failed to anticipate the Hamas victory in the 
elections.\2\ Promoting democracy has been a cornerstone of the 
Bush administration's policy in the Middle East, but the United 
States apparently had no plan for reacting to the democratic 
choice of the Palestinians if Hamas won a majority in the 
election. Initially, the U.S. response to the Hamas victory was 
to reiterate existing counterterrorism policy. President Bush 
and other administration officials indicated that the United 
States would not deal with an elected Hamas-led Palestinian 
Authority government if it did not renounce terrorism, disarm 
and accept Israel's right to exist. The Quartet, (the United 
States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia) 
issued a similar statement that ``all members of a future 
Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, 
recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements 
and obligations, including the Roadmap.'' \3\ Israel similarly 
took a cautious position, reminding Palestinian Authority 
President Abbas that Hamas was allowed to participate in the 
elections based on his commitment that, after the elections, 
the Palestinian Authority would work to disarm Hamas and seek 
to turn it from a terrorist to a political organization.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ Weisman, Steven R., ``Rice Admits U.S. Underestimated Hamas 
Strength,'' NYT, January 3, 2006.
    \3\ Quartet Statement, U.S. Department of State, January 30, 2006.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Isolation, Engagement or Containment?
    The United States, the Quartet, and the Israelis appear to 
have tried to leave the door open to engage with the new 
Palestinian leading party if Hamas changes or moderates its 
positions.
    Some consider that under a democratic process, Hamas will 
be co-opted over the long run merely by undertaking the burdens 
of governance and responsibilities to respond to the public. 
Budding Palestinian democratic institutions and a free press 
could eventually result in greater accountability and 
transparency in governance by the Palestinian Authority. Such 
institutions might pressure Hamas representatives, in order to 
stay in power, to respond to the estimated 60-70 percent of the 
Palestinian population who reportedly support reaching a 
peaceful settlement with Israel in a two-state solution. The 
need to respond to constituent demands relating to 
unemployment, personal security, and social services might 
force Hamas to set aside any Islamic or extremist agenda, at 
least in the short and medium term.
    But, a strategy that relies solely on isolating Hamas and 
expecting internal pressures from weak Palestinian democratic 
institutions and civil society to succeed in co-opting or 
moderating Hamas positions could well backfire. Politically 
isolating and punishing the Palestinian people for voting for 
Hamas could lead to further radicalization and might push the 
new leadership to seek even greater support from Iran, Syria, 
and other supporters of terrorism. There is little 
understanding of what the newly elected Hamas leadership 
intends to do and few, if any, channels of communication open 
to try to influence their decision making. It is not even clear 
who is making decisions.

   Are Hamas members who won the election inside the 
        West Bank and Gaza in the lead? Are the exiled leaders 
        in Syria calling the shots? Is Iran already involved?

    The fact that the elections were held at all, and that 
Hamas participated willingly after boycotting the Palestinian 
Authority Presidential elections last year, are good signs that 
the organization can shift gears. The Israeli Defense Ministry 
has even acknowledged that Hamas has kept the ``calm'' or 
informal truce, arranged over the past year. This holds promise 
that pragmatists among Hamas' ranks may prevail and be open to 
engagement and dialogue. Some suggest that eventually, like 
``Nixon in China,'' the Hamas election could represent an 
unprecedented opportunity for the peace process. They argue 
that precisely because Hamas has been extremist, it will have 
the credibility among Palestinians that permits it to moderate 
its charter, renounce violence and agree to engage with the 
Israelis, the United States and others, and ultimately achieve 
a negotiations breakthrough that the corrupt and inept Fatah 
party could not.
    It would be naive to assume, however, that Hamas will 
reverse its extremist positions without significant pressure, 
particularly if the Iranians and Syrians rush to fill any 
vacuum created by punitive policies of the United States and 
European Union. Engagement and dialogue with a wholly 
unrepentant, unchanged Hamas could legitimize its extremist 
policies and embolden its leaders. There are already fears 
among the Palestinians, particularly Christian and secularist 
elements, that Hamas intends to impose strict Islamism as it 
gains control over the instruments of government. The more 
control of the Palestinian Authority Hamas gains, including 
control over Cabinet positions and ministries, the more 
confident Hamas also will be to continue to reject the right of 
Israel to exist and support continued violent, armed terrorist 
attacks. 
 

Palestinian women preparing to vote. Two wear green Hamas scraves; two 
                  wear black and white Fatah scraves.

    Such fears have led some to propose a policy of containment 
of Hamas' power within the Palestinian Authority. Proponents of 
a policy of containment seek to limit Hamas' control of 
specific ministries and would support Palestinian Authority 
President Abbas in naming a technocratic rather than a Hamas or 
Fatah party dominated Cabinet. However, while this approach may 
maintain a temporary illusion of limited Hamas control, it 
risks giving Hamas acceptability and legitimacy without 
requiring it to take responsibility for governing decisions. It 
also risks undermining efforts to press Hamas to reform its own 
political agenda and renounce the use of violence and terror.
    Even if Hamas gains control over the Palestinian Authority 
and ministries, it is not clear how much influence Hamas would 
have over other factions such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The 
limited violence during the elections could reflect some form 
of agreement among the various militant Palestinian factions, 
but the relationship between Hamas and other terrorist 
organizations remains unclear. A Hamas-led government may allow 
Palestinian Islamic Jihad or others to continue to operate 
against Israel, particularly to garner or maintain Iranian 
support. The difference would be that once Hamas is in power, 
such attacks may no longer be considered merely terrorism, but 
could be considered open acts of war bringing the wrath of 
Israel down on the Palestinian people.
    The stakes are high. Costs and benefits of pursuing a 
strategy of isolation, engagement or containment of Hamas must 
be carefully weighed and objectives clearly defined.

RECOMMENDATION
        The United States, the European Union, and the Quartet 
        urgently need to unify their message to maximize 
        pressure on Hamas for reform and moderation. They also 
        need to develop channels of communication with the 
        newly elected Palestinian legislators and establish a 
        framework for constructive Palestinian response. 
        Continuation of the role of the Quartet Special 
        Coordinator, James Wolfensohn, might appropriately be 
        used to fill this need in the short term. 
        Alternatively, a new special envoy might be designated 
        to work with the Palestinians. For the longer term, a 
        cohesive, strategic action plan must be developed which 
        clarifies our short-term and long-term objectives, and 
        outlines steps necessary to protect and promote United 
        States national interests in the Middle East.


             ECONOMIC CHALLENGE--CUT OFF AID VS. STABILITY


    The United States, Israel, and many others in the 
international community will be tempted to react quickly and 
decisively to cut off all aid and all funding flows to a 
Palestinian Government led by Hamas, a designated terrorist 
organization. The challenge will be to temper this reaction 
through an assessment of the likely consequences for our 
national interests. What is envisioned will happen to the 
Palestinians after all aid is cut off? And how will this be 
expected to impact the Israelis?

Palestinian Dependence on Aid
    As a member of NDI/CC Team Bethlehem, Ms. Savit observed 
the elections in nine polling stations across the Bethlehem 
area of the West Bank. Most polling stations were in schools 
with little or no heat. The Bethlehem Team observed the vote 
count in a small classroom where for 5 hours into the night, 
they sat freezing with six election officials and five official 
candidate observers. But they had lights. One of the NDI/CC 
teams reported that electricity went out at their polling 
station as the vote count started. This was a quick reminder 
that in many parts of the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians 
are not in control of the flow of electricity and water. Their 
economic life is largely dependent on Israel and the 
international community.
    International donors provided over $1 billion in aid to the 
Palestinian Authority in 2005, with about one-third going 
toward salaries, and the rest to humanitarian and 
reconstruction assistance. The United States provided an 
estimated $70 million in direct assistance, $225 million for 
humanitarian projects through the U.S. Agency for International 
Development, and about $88 million for refugee assistance.\4\ 
The Palestinians have, in fact, been the largest aid recipients 
per capita in the world for years. A cut in donor aid would 
result in devastation of the Palestinian economy, adding tens 
of thousands of government workers to the estimated 30-60 
percent existing unemployment, and adding to the already 
overwhelming Palestinian budget deficit. In fact, reports 
indicate that the Palestinian budget crisis is immediate and 
that the Palestinian Authority will be bankrupt within weeks of 
the election, particularly if Israel withholds the transfer of 
taxes and customs fees collected on the Palestinian's behalf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ Barzak, Ibrahim, ``Palestinians appeal for continued aid as key 
donors say Hamas must recognize Israel,'' Associated Press, January 31, 
2006. 



          Observing the ballot count in Bethlehem school room.

Cutting-Off All Assistance
    Cutting assistance is one of the few levers available to 
the international community to try to curb Hamas' extremist 
positions in a timely manner. The international community is 
beginning to consider use of this tool to put pressure on 
Hamas, but the efforts appear ad hoc and uncoordinated.
    Some argue that the Palestinian people must face the 
consequences of their choice and all aid should be cut. Others 
consider it immoral to cut off all aid, particularly 
humanitarian assistance, in order to punish the Palestinians 
for exercising their democratic right to vote. Still others 
view any aid cuts as counterproductive--likely to increase 
radicalization of the Palestinians, decrease support for the 
two-state solution, and strengthen support for Hamas.
    Currently, by law, the United States cannot provide direct 
cash assistance from Economic Support Funds to the Palestinian 
Authority unless the President certifies that such aid is 
important to the national security interests of the United 
States. \5\ The President has used this waiver authority 
sparingly as he did last year after the election of Palestinian 
Authority President Abbas. However, it is an important tool, 
giving him a degree of flexibility in dealing with a vital and 
often volatile foreign policy issue and permitting, under 
exceptional circumstances, injection of direct assistance at 
key moments when such aid can have significant positive impact 
for U.S. national interests. If there is to be any direct 
United States aid to the Palestinian Authority in the future--
regardless of the political composition of the Palestinian 
Authority--this existing Presidential waiver authority for 
assistance must be maintained.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ Section 550 of Public Law 109-102: Sec. 550. (a) Prohibition of 
Funds.--None of the funds appropriated by this Act to carry out the 
provisions of chapter 4 of part II of the Foreign Assistance Act of 
1961 may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to 
the Palestinian Authority. (b) NOTE: President. Certification. 
Waiver.--The prohibition included in subsection (a) shall not apply if 
the President certifies in writing to the Speaker of the House of 
Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate that 
waiving such prohibition is important to the national security 
interests of the United States. (c) NOTE: Termination date. Period of 
Application of Waiver.--Any waiver pursuant to subsection (b) shall be 
effective for no more than a period of 6 months at a time and shall not 
apply beyond 12 months after the enactment of this Act.(d) NOTE: 
President. limitation on assistance to security forces Report.--
Whenever the waiver authority pursuant to subsection (b) is exercised, 
the President shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations 
detailing the steps the Palestinian Authority has taken to arrest 
terrorists, confiscate weapons and dismantle the terrorist 
infrastructure. The report shall also include a description of how 
funds will be spent and the accounting procedures in place to ensure 
that they are properly disbursed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While United States law has long barred direct cash 
assistance to the Palestinian Authority, United States 
assistance for the West Bank and Gaza via nongovernmental 
organizations (NGOs) and private voluntary organizations (PVOs) 
is permitted. Organizations and individuals receiving such aid 
are required to meet stringent vetting conditions designed to 
ensure that no aid goes to ``groups or individuals who are or 
have been involved in terror.'' \6\ In addition, as a legally 
designated foreign terrorist organization, Hamas is ineligible 
to receive funds or other material support.\7\ The United 
States could, in principle, continue indirect aid to the 
Palestinians even with Hamas' success in the election. However, 
United States law puts the onus on United States aid providers 
to judge if Palestinian aid recipients are terrorists or have 
been involved in terrorism. In practice, many aid providers 
will likely cut off even indirect aid to the Palestinians, 
including humanitarian assistance, rather than take a risk that 
they will break the law.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ Section 559. of (P.L. 109-102) NOTE: Deadline. Certification. 
Procedures. (a) Oversight.--For fiscal year 2006, 30 days prior to the 
initial obligation of funds for the bilateral West Bank and Gaza 
Program, the Secretary of State shall certify to the appropriate 
committees of Congress that procedures have been established to assure 
the Comptroller General of the United States will have access to 
appropriate United States financial information in order to review the 
uses of United States assistance for the Program funded under the 
heading ``Economic Support Fund'' for the West Bank and Gaza. (b) 
Vetting.--Prior to the obligation of funds appropriated by this Act 
under the heading ``Economic Support Fund'' for assistance for the West 
Bank and Gaza, the Secretary of State shall take all appropriate steps 
to ensure that such assistance is not provided to or through any 
individual, private or government entity, or educational institution 
that the Secretary knows or has reason to believe advocates, plans, 
sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, terrorist activity. The 
Secretary of State shall, as appropriate, establish procedures 
specifying the steps to be taken in carrying out this subsection and 
shall terminate assistance to any individual, entity, or educational 
institution which he has determined to be involved in or advocating 
terrorist activity. (c) Prohibition.--None of the funds appropriated by 
this Act for assistance under the West Bank and Gaza program may be 
made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring 
individuals who commit, or have committed, acts of terrorism.
    \7\Hamas is on the list of groups designated by the Secretary of 
State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), pursuant to section 
219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by the 
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The designations 
carry legal consequences: It is unlawful to provide funds or other 
material support to a designated FTO. Representatives and certain 
members of a designated FTO can be denied visas or excluded from the 
United States. U.S. financial institutions must block funds of 
designated FTOs and their agents and must report the blockage to the 
U.S. Department of the Treasury. U.S. State Department.
    \8\ Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Staff Trip Report: 
``Israel's Diesengagement from Gaza and Several West Bank 
Settlements,'' October 2005.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The European Union, too, has indicated that its member 
nations would cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority in the 
event that Hamas does not recognize Israel, renounce violence 
and disarm.
    Finally, Israeli Acting Prime Minister Olmert stated after 
the election that ``We are not ready in any way to allow a 
situation in which money transferred by the Government of 
Israel will somehow end up in the control of murderous elements 
who want to harm Israeli citizens.'' \9\ Israel initially said, 
``for the time being,'' that it would stop the monthly transfer 
of an estimated $55 million in taxes and customs it collects 
from Palestinian workers and merchants to the Palestinian 
Authority if a Hamas government is installed.\10\ It went 
forward with the first payment after the election, as Hamas had 
not yet formed a new Palestinian Authority government, but 
Israeli officials indicated future payments were under review.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Daily Star staff, ``Hamas seeks to reassure stock market 
investors, Palestinian Financial Markets Plummet in Wake of threats to 
cut aid,'' Tuesday, January 31, 2006.
    \10\ Entous, Adam; ``Israel expects to halt tax payment to 
Palestinians,'' Jerusalem, Reuters, Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 7:18 AM 
ET
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Consequences
    The loss of financial assistance from the United States, 
the European Union and other Western donors could push Hamas 
closer to Iran and Syria and further radicalize the Palestinian 
people. This threat will undoubtedly be used by Hamas to 
counter pressures for the United States and others for 
moderation and for changes to its charter. The Iranian 
President's visit to Syria before the Palestinian elections as 
well as statements in support of Hamas' victory give some 
credibility to this threat.
    However, Iran and Syria face their own political and 
economic constraints. They may be unwilling or unable to fill 
the enormous needs of the Palestinians if United States and 
other donor aid sources are cut off. Moreover, as some experts 
estimate, the Sunni dominated Hamas has received less than 10 
percent of its funding from the Shi'ite dominated Iran and has 
many other sources of funding.
    The primary economic challenge is how to use the leverage 
of aid to put pressure on Hamas without alienating or 
radicalizing the majority of the Palestinians. The key will be 
obtaining support of the moderate Arab states, particularly the 
Saudis and others who have been the primary financiers of the 
Palestinians. For the moment, the Saudis and other Gulf states 
are hesitating to continue or increase funding for a Hamas-led 
Palestinian Authority. Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt and 
Jordan, may fear that the success of Hamas, which grew out of 
the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, could result in a growing 
threat to their own regimes. There has been some indication 
that both Egypt and Jordan will insist that Hamas renounce 
violence, but it is not yet clear what the other moderate Arab 
states will do. The United States, Europeans, and other members 
of the Quartet, particularly the Russians, will need to consult 
early and work closely with these Arab nations to gain maximum 
leverage over aid resources.
    There is no guarantee, however, even with the loss of 
financial aid, that Hamas will moderate its positions. Yet, 
with limited options, how and when such leverage is used may 
make a difference. Time is of the essence.

RECOMMENDATION
        Our policy should seek to take maximum advantage of the 
        leverage provided by assistance, and should condition 
        any direct aid to the Palestinian Authority on Hamas 
        taking action to meet specific conditions or 
        benchmarks. But flexibility is required to respond to 
        realities on the ground. Conditions on direct United 
        States aid to the Palestinian Authority should be 
        tough, to provide clear pressure on Hamas, but should 
        not be so onerous as to further radicalize the 
        Palestinian population and foreclose any possible 
        future efforts to re-energize the Road Map and two-
        state solution. At a minimum, the United States should 
        continue to provide humanitarian assistance vetted 
        appropriately.

        United States laws governing aid to the Palestinians 
        should be reassessed to take into account the new 
        political realities. The goal of any changes to these 
        laws should be to ensure that United States aid to the 
        Palestinians--direct or via nongovernmental 
        organizations (NGOs)--is an effective tool of United 
        States national interests.

   Aid provided through NGOs originating from USAID 
        should continue to be distinguished from aid provided 
        directly to the Palestinian Authority.
   Benchmarks should set realistic goals which would 
        provide a foundation for assessing progress.

         SECURITY CHALLENGE--INTEGRATION, INSTABILITY, OR WAR?

    With Hamas' victory, it is unclear what direction the Fatah 
dominated security forces will take. Ironically, any new 
Palestinian Authority government that is formed with Hamas in 
the leadership could immediately have to deal with a vast array 
of security threats. Palestinian Authority President Abbas 
committed to disarm the militias after the elections, but it is 
not clear, given Hamas' victory, whether he will seek to 
integrate Hamas armed militias into the existing Fatah 
dominated security forces or find a means to disarm them. 
Moreover, the Palestinian security forces require daily 
interaction with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at border 
crossings and on other critical issues such as water and 
electricity. How will the Hamas-led Palestinian leadership deal 
with the IDF on a daily basis? How will its leaders cross 
between Gaza and the West Bank? With 15 of its members in 
Israeli jails, how will the majority of the new Hamas-led 
Palestinian legislators actually vote?

    During the January 25 election, the Palestinian Authority 
Police and Security Forces were visible everywhere, in new 
uniforms outside every polling site and on street corners 
confronting the traffic jams. They appeared well prepared for 
their role of ensuring that the elections were nonviolent--
``free, fair, and safe'' as described by the Palestinian Civil 
Police. The crowds of Fatah, Hamas Change and Reform, and 
Independent candidate supporters outside each of the polling 
stations visited were friendly and obviously excited about the 
election. There was a feeling of national unity and 
celebration.



          Fatah, Hamas, and Independent candidates supporters.



    Each polling station displayed signs including this ``no guns.''

Consolidation and Integration

    After the election, Hamas reportedly offered to form a 
coalition, national unity government and indicated it expects 
to build a Palestinian national army, integrating Hamas' armed 
militants into the existing security forces. Fatah leaders 
reportedly rejected the offer and chose instead to become an 
``opposition'' party. Integration of the Hamas militias with 
the remaining 3-4 different Palestinian Security Force 
organizations that grew initially under Arafat's control is 
expected to be strongly resisted by the existing Fatah 
leadership.
    For the past year, the United States and the European Union 
have been providing technical assistance to facilitate reform 
and consolidation of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces. 
Approximately $3 million was allocated for support of the 
European Union Cops training program. United States Security 
Coordinator, GEN William Ward, replaced in December 2005 by GEN 
Keith Dayton, has been developing a performance-based strategic 
framework to promote the restructuring of the Palestinian 
Security Forces, to promote law and order and to prevent 
factional and political violence. These efforts have had 
minimal success. Beyond the leadership levels, Palestinian 
Security Forces remain in serious disarray.

Civil War?

    As the Palestinian budget hits rock bottom in the aftermath 
of the elections, the estimated 68,000 existing Security Forces 
on the government payroll may be among the first to grow angry 
over lack of salary payments. Armed and under competing and 
divided leaders within Fatah, these forces may be unwilling to 
accept Hamas direction and control. The existing Palestinian 
security forces could become the primary source of instability 
and violence within Gaza and the West Bank. Some experts have 
even raised the specter of civil war between Hamas, Fatah, and 
other armed militias. Although civil war may seem improbable, 
as the economy deteriorates, Palestinian internal violence and 
instability is likely to grow and could quickly spread and be 
redirected toward Israel.

Impact on Israeli Elections

    Any increasing instability among the Palestinian factions 
will have an impact on the upcoming Israeli elections scheduled 
for March 28, 2006, and thus, will have the potential to impact 
any future negotiations. Current polls indicate that the Kadima 
(centrist) party, established last year by Prime Minister 
Sharon and led by Acting Prime Minister Olmert, remains the 
preference of the majority of Israelis. Increasing violence and 
instability may work to the advantage of the right wing Likud 
party of Netanyahu. Moreover, further unilateral actions by 
Israel to consolidate settlements in the West Bank and declare 
its own borders may become major issues within the Israeli 
election campaigns.

RECOMMENDATION

        Return to the Road Map appears unlikely, but plans 
        should be developed to facilitate the disarmament of 
        Hamas militias as a condition of aid and establish 
        criteria for possible integration into the Palestinian 
        security forces. Efforts should be explored to extend 
        the informal cease fire and establish confidence 
        building measures towards a possible interim peace. 
        United States efforts to help reform and consolidate 
        the Palestinian security forces should be frozen, 
        reassessed, and adjusted as the situation evolves.

                               CONCLUSION

    We were not prepared for the magnitude of Hamas' victory in 
the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The new 
political, economic, and security challenges in the region 
require rethinking our strategy, policies, and plans.
    Given the existing Palestinian financial crisis, there 
probably will never be as much leverage by aid donors on a new 
Hamas-led Palestinian Authority as there is now. Effective 
United States policy will require sticks, in the form of 
denying direct aid to the Palestinian Authority and setting 
tough requirements for action by Hamas; and carrots, in the 
form of realistic benchmarks for Hamas performance, and the 
continuation of assistance to the Palestinian people. Such a 
strategy--especially if coordinated with the Europeans, others 
in the Quartet and even moderate Arab States--could effectively 
pressure and isolate Hamas, while making clear that the United 
States is not seeking to punish the entire Palestinian people 
for holding free and fair democratic elections.
    It is critical that the United States not ``act'' 
precipitously. The Palestinian Authority is in an unprecedented 
period of transition and the United States must maintain 
flexibility to respond constructively as the situation evolves. 
If we develop a strategic plan now and clearly define our 
national interests and objectives, we may have greater 
influence in the short term and open up some opportunities for 
the future.

                                ANNEX I

                              ----------                              


 Preliminary Statement of the NDI/Carter Center International Observer 
      Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council Elections

    This preliminary statement on the January 25, 2006 
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections is offered by 
the international observer delegation organized by the National 
Democratic Institute (NDI) in partnership with The Carter 
Center. The delegation was led by former United States 
President Jimmy Carter, former Albanian President Rexhep 
Meidani, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, and former 
Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio. It included current and 
former legislators, former ambassadors, elections and human 
rights experts, civic leaders and regional specialists from 22 
countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and 
North America. The delegation visited the Palestinian 
territories from January 21-26 and deployed 85 observers to the 
West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
    This delegation is part of NDI's 2-year comprehensive 
observation of Palestinian election processes, which is 
supported by USAID and which began with the 2004 voter 
registration process and included all five rounds of the 2004-
2005 municipal elections, the joint NDI/Carter Center 
observation of the 2005 Presidential election, and the 
placement of long-term observers in Jerusalem, the West Bank, 
and Gaza in the lead up to these elections. The Institute 
issued a series of statements on the voter registration and 
municipal election processes, and NDI and The Carter Center 
issued statements on the Presidential election and on the 
preelection environment, all of which are available on NDI's 
Web site at www.ndi.org. The Carter Center also jointly 
organized an international election observation mission for the 
1996 Palestinian Presidential and legislative elections.
    The purposes of the delegation were twofold: To demonstrate 
the international community's continued interest in and support 
for the development of viable democratic institutions that will 
enable Palestinians to freely choose their leaders and 
representatives; and to provide Palestinians and the 
international community with an impartial and accurate 
assessment of the election process and the political 
environment surrounding the elections to date. The delegation 
conducted its assessment on the basis of the Declaration of 
Principles for International Election Observation, comparative 
practices for democratic elections and Palestinian law. For 
more than a decade, NDI has conducted, on an impartial basis 
and across the political spectrum, programs to support the 
development of democratic Palestinian institutions and 
processes.
    Under the difficult circumstances of the ongoing conflict 
and occupation, Palestinian voters turned out in large numbers 
in a strong expression of their desire to choose 
representatives through open and competitive elections. The 
obvious pride and enthusiasm of Palestinians about the election 
process was evident throughout the voting districts. This was 
reinforced by the professional and impartial performance of 
election officials. Through the high turnout in these elections 
and in the 2005 Presidential election, as well as the notable 
participation in five rounds of municipal elections over the 
last year, Palestinians have clearly demonstrated a commitment 
to democratic elections. It is now up to the elected leaders 
and representatives to construct genuinely democratic 
institutions and processes that will bring the peace and 
prosperity that the Palestinian people deserve, within a free 
and independent state.
    The January 25 elections can be an important step on the 
road to greater democracy for the Palestinian people. They 
present a unique challenge in that they included a group that 
advocated the use of violence as a means of achieving a 
political end and refuse to give up arms. Also, it has been 
committed to the destruction of a United Nations member state. 
It is universally accepted that democratic elections and 
democratic governance are about employing peaceful means to 
achieve political goals. We hope that the elections will mark a 
decisive move toward the renunciation of violence by all groups 
and toward addressing corruption and other issues that are 
central to improving the lives of Palestinians.
    The elections were characterized by the following positive 
developments.

   Within the bounds of an occupied territory, the 
        legal framework for the elections generally compared 
        favorably to international standards.
   The adoption of a voluntary code of conduct by all 
        political parties set an important precedent, though 
        not all points were consistently implemented.
   The Central Election Commission (CEC) operated with 
        a high level of confidence among the political 
        contestants and the Palestinian population.
   The election campaign proceeded relatively 
        peacefully and allowed voters to obtain abundant 
        information about the contestants.
   Except for restraints in East Jerusalem, the 
        election process was open and highly competitive.
   Election day was generally peaceful, and the 
        elections thus far appear to be well administered under 
        the difficult circumstances of ongoing conflict and 
        occupation.
   A large number of Palestinians turned out to vote 
        and were able to exercise their franchise without major 
        difficulties. Voting procedures for illiterate persons 
        generally curbed problems noted in prior elections.
   Israeli authorities generally eased travel through 
        checkpoints to facilitate freedom of movement for 
        election day processes.
   A significant number of political party and 
        candidate agents and a significant number of 
        nonpartisan Palestinian election observers were present 
        in the polls, providing transparency to the process and 
        helping to ensure its integrity.
   Women played a large role in the election process as 
        election officials, party and candidate agents and 
        nonpartisan observers. The legal framework required 20 
        percent of the names on the party lists for 
        proportional representation seats be women, though few 
        women appeared as candidates for district-based 
        majoritarian seats.

    The elections, however, were not without problems, 
including the following developments.

   Arrangements for voting in East Jerusalem were 
        agreed to late in the process by Israeli authorities, 
        while possibilities for voting in their neighborhoods 
        remained inadequate for Palestinian voters in East 
        Jerusalem. Conditions in East Jerusalem post offices 
        did not provide voting privacy, as voters marked 
        ballots on counters in view of postal workers.
   Campaigning by virtually all parties and many 
        independent candidates was widespread on election day 
        in violation of the election law, and, though in most 
        instances such campaigning was peaceful, it contributed 
        to tensions and scattered incidents of violence, 
        particularly in Gaza and some localities in the Hebron 
        governorate (Beit Awwa and Ash Shuyuk).
   Though freedom of movement was generally 
        unobstructed on election day, there were numerous 
        confirmed reports that political candidates, campaign 
        workers, and election workers were unable to move 
        satisfactorily through checkpoints during the campaign 
        period that began on January 3.
   While parties and candidates were able to get out 
        their messages, and they received free access to public 
        media through regulated spots, news coverage documented 
        by professional Palestinian and international media 
        monitors noted significant bias, and paid political 
        advertisements were not offered at the same price to 
        all candidates by certain media outlets.
   There were credible reports of use of Palestinian 
        Authority resources for the benefit of Fateh candidates 
        and numerous reports of campaigning in many mosques on 
        behalf of Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) 
        candidates.

    The vote tabulation process is still underway. Election 
complaints may be lodged by political parties and/or 
candidates. NDI and The Carter Center will continue to monitor 
these developments until the election process is completed and 
may issue additional statements. A final report will by issued 
soon after completion of the election process.
    The 2006 PLC elections present a unique challenge with the 
participation of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, 
which has advocated violence, including the killing of 
civilians, as a means to achieving a political end. It is also 
committed to the destruction of a United Nations member state. 
While it is in the long-term interest of Palestinian democratic 
development, and likely in the long-term security interests of 
Israel, that a wide spectrum of groups participate in lawful 
and peaceful political processes. Hamas' current political 
participation, while simultaneously advocating violence, is not 
consistent with a fundamental principle of democratic 
elections.
    In an August 2002 preelection assessment, NDI, the 
International Republican Institute (IRI), and the International 
Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), recommended the 
adoption of candidacy requirements for the expected 2003 PLC 
elections. The 2002 report also suggested that a code of 
conduct be developed and enforced, which committed all parties 
to transparent and democratic principles, disallowed election-
related violence and restricted individuals engaged in, or 
advocating violence from becoming candidates.
    A voluntary code of conduct was developed by the Arab 
Thought Forum with support from NDI in late 2005, which went 
some way toward this goal. While stopping short of disallowing 
certain candidates, the code contains important undertakings 
geared to help enforce peaceful and fair campaigning and to 
promote a peaceful acceptance of election results. All 
political parties and movements, including Hamas, signed on to 
the code. The Palestinian Authority, in successful efforts led 
by President Mahmoud Abbas, engaged different factions in 
dialogue over the last year, including Hamas, to consolidate 
the ``State of Calm'' initiated by the Cairo Agreement signed 
in 2005.
    Such steps related to the elections could help set the 
stage for renunciation of violence by all parties beyond the 
elections in order to achieve the peace and prosperity that are 
goals of democratic governance. The new PLC also has an 
opportunity to address this issue with the adoption of a 
political party law. Now that it has entered the political 
arena, Hamas has the chance to accept and adhere to recognized 
democratic norms.
    There are an estimated 120,000 eligible voters in East 
Jerusalem, accounting for about 9 percent of the Palestinian 
electorate. Given the long-standing dispute over the status of 
Jerusalem, these voters have yet to obtain a reasonable 
opportunity to exercise their franchise.
    A compromise was reached in 1995 (the Israeli-Palestinian 
Interim Agreement Elections Protocol, Annex II, Article IV) 
that, as implemented, provided an opportunity for approximately 
5,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem (approximately 
6,300 in these elections) to vote inside the city. The 
agreement, employed during the 1996 PLC elections and the 2005 
Presidential election, designated Israeli post offices in East 
Jerusalem as locations for that number of Palestinians to cast 
ballots. Palestinian Jerusalemites not voting in post offices 
were provided an opportunity to vote in special voting centers 
outside the city's boundaries. Under this arrangement, voting 
in East Jerusalem could be considered by Israelis as a form of 
``absentee'' balloting, since ballot boxes were transported to 
counting centers in the West Bank, while Palestinians could 
consider the ballots as regular votes. This compromise, though 
inadequate, allowed the elections to proceed.
    The ability to vote within the municipal boundaries of East 
Jerusalem remains important to both Palestinian rights and the 
fair conduct of elections. The PLC is to have six 
representatives from Jerusalem, and Jerusalemites vote for 
national lists in the proportional representation system. Until 
approximately 2 weeks before the January 26 PLC elections, 
however, Israeli authorities refused to agree to the prior 
compromise for East Jerusalem voting. Israel's ambiguous stance 
was explained by its reluctance to facilitate Hamas 
participation in the elections. While the compromise was again 
eventually implemented, the delay hindered electoral 
preparations in Jerusalem and made it difficult to mount 
adequate related voter education efforts.
    Some administrative procedures were modified in these 
elections to avoid the large-scale confusion that was evident 
in the 2005 Presidential election. However, secrecy of the 
ballot remained a serious problem, with voting at counters in 
view of postal workers. In these and the 2005 election, the 
areas in East Jerusalem had the lowest turnout of any 
Palestinian electoral district. An often stated reason for this 
is the potential loss of certain social and state benefits if 
Jerusalemites vote, though no evidence of such losses have been 
presented to NDI or The Carter Center. NDI and The Carter 
Center have urged that Israeli officials publish express 
assurances that there will be no retribution against 
Palestinian Jerusalemites who vote.
    The legal framework for the PLC elections was provided by 
the Basic Law and the Election Law. Though incomplete and not 
without shortcomings, they provide a foundation for democratic 
elections and compare favorably to international standards. The 
legal framework provides for 132 seats in the PLC, 66 of which 
are determined by proportional representation. Eleven parties 
and independents groups competed for those seats with closed 
national lists of candidates. The other 66 seats are divided 
into electoral districts corresponding to the 16 Palestinian 
governorates, with seats allocated to each district based on 
population, providing at least one seat per governorate. Voters 
then selected up to the number of individual candidates on the 
ballot corresponding to the number of seats allocated to their 
respective governate. Six seats were set aside for Christians, 
with the Christian candidates receiving the highest number of 
votes in designated governess being awarded the allocated seats 
and the remaining seats in the governate going to the highest 
vote winners that are not Christian. National party lists for 
the proportional seats must contain one woman in the first 
three names on the list, one woman in the next four names and 
one woman in every five names thereafter, thus approximating 20 
percent of each list. There were no requirements for including 
women as candidates for the district-based majoritarian seats.
    The CEC and its staff operated with a high level of 
confidence among the political contestants and the Palestinian 
population. Despite uncertainties in the timing of the 
elections, the difficult circumstances of the ongoing conflict 
and occupation and some political pressures, the CEC operated 
as an independent, effective, and professional administrative 
body. The PLC accepted a recommendation of the NDI/Carter 
Center and European Union observer missions to the 2005 
Presidential election to cease using the civil registry as a 
source for the voter lists. This change to the law allowed the 
CEC to prepare, with the exception of Jerusalem, a sound voters 
list. The voters list was developed based on voters going to 
registration centers, and the process was marked by extensive 
voter education and registration drives organized by the CEC 
that provided a genuine opportunity for all voters outside East 
Jerusalem to register.
    The CEC also addressed a problem in the Presidential 
election by requiring closer scrutiny of those claiming 
assistance as illiterate voters and of those seeking to assist 
voters, thus better ensuring against undue influence and 
compromising ballot secrecy. The CEC provided for voting by 
security forces during the 3 days preceding January 25. Such 
voting took place in 17 special polling centers located in home 
governorate capitals of security force personnel. This allowed 
the forces to be on duty on election day without their 
disenfranchisement and avoided voting in barracks, which poses 
significant potentials for undue influence on voting choices. 
In addition, recruitment and training of polling station 
workers and logistical preparations were completed successfully 
in advance of the elections. Maintaining political 
impartiality, developing effective administrative capacities, 
and successfully organizing for election day is an enormous and 
difficult undertaking in any environment and is particularly 
commendable in the circumstances of these elections.
    The election campaign was vigorously contested and 
generally peaceful. These were the first parliamentary 
elections where all major Palestinian political movements 
competed, and they provided the first opportunity in 10 years 
for Palestinians to hold their representatives accountable. 
Some 738 candidates stood for the 132 seats, including on 11 
national lists of candidates.
    Public opinion polling indicated that the major issues of 
voter concern were eliminating corruption, providing essential 
government services and establishing and maintaining law and 
order. The campaign provided a genuine opportunity for the 
contestants to present their views on these and other issues 
and allowed voters to obtain information upon which to make an 
informed choice.
    A voluntary code of conduct, developed by the Arab Thought 
Forum with support from NDI, was signed by all political 
parties. Compliance with the code's provisions concerning 
peaceful and fair campaigning was monitored by nonpartisan 
Palestinian observers, including the Higher National Committee 
to Follow up The Code of Conduct. The process leading to 
acceptance of the code and its monitoring may have contributed 
to the relative peacefulness of the campaign.
    Significant issues were noted by international and 
Palestinian nonpartisan election observers concerning use of 
Palestinian Authority resources for the benefit of Fateh and 
campaigning in a significant number of mosques for Hamas 
candidates. Public resources, including government funds, 
vehicles, communications equipment, materials and work hours of 
government officials and employees belong to the Palestinian 
people and should not be used for the benefit of individual 
parties or candidates. The lack of a clear and enforceable 
regulatory framework for campaign activities and financing 
undermines public trust. At the same time, use of religious 
facilities to benefit individual parties and candidates runs 
counter to standards for democratic elections and is counter to 
Palestinian law and the political party code of conduct.
    There were numerous confirmed reports that political 
candidates and campaign workers, as well as in some cases 
election workers, were unable to move satisfactorily through 
checkpoints during the campaign period that began officially on 
January 3. On the first day of the official campaign, 
candidates in the Jerusalem district were prevented from 
campaigning near the gates of the old city. Israeli police 
detained some candidates and dispersed the crowd.
    Incidents of violence and disorder in the Gaza Strip during 
the campaign period, especially those near the Rafah border 
crossing, had distinct political overtones. In addition, the 
CEC offices were raided and closed by gunmen, and one party's 
campaign worker was shot and killed by a rival activist. There 
was, at least, one politically motivated threat that mentioned 
international observers, though all factions announced publicly 
that they disavowed any such threats. Police forces in Gaza 
appealed to the Palestinian political leadership for more 
support, refusing in some cases to intervene to stop violent 
incidents on the streets, due to lack of resources to impose 
law and order. These conditions added to the problems of 
organizing successful elections.
    The Palestinian mass media present a plurality of views. 
Palestinians also have ready access to regional and 
international new media, which provided significant coverage of 
the elections. Parties and candidates, by law, were provided 
free access to public broadcast media to offer messages to the 
electorate. The media carried paid political advertisements, 
and political posters were present throughout the Palestinian 
territories.
    The political contestants therefore were able to present 
their views to the population, and voters received information 
upon which to make informed political choices in the elections. 
However, professional international and Palestinian media 
monitors, including monitoring by the Pavia Institute for the 
European Union Election Observation Mission and the Palestinian 
NGO ``Filastiniyat,'' noted significant bias in the broadcast 
media, with the public media favoring Fateh and privately owned 
media favoring candidates who owned certain media outlets. 
Media monitors also noted that some media outlets discriminated 
by charging candidates different prices for political 
advertisements. The lack of regulations to ensure fairness and 
prevent discrimination remain a weakness in the electoral 
framework.
    Election day was orderly, well administered, and generally 
peaceful. This was a particularly significant accomplishment in 
light of the ongoing conflict and occupation, as well as the 
tensions and incidents in the Gaza Strip during the leadup to 
the elections. There were, however, limited instances of 
disturbances and violence in Gaza and Hebron govern ate (Beit 
Awwa and Ash Shuyuk).
    Palestinian voters turned out in large numbers in a clear 
expression of their desire to choose their representatives in 
open and competitive elections. Through the high turnout in 
these and the 2005 Presidential election, and notable 
participation in five rounds of municipal elections over the 
last year, Palestinians have demonstrated a strong commitment 
to democratic elections.
    As with the 2005 Presidential election, the delegation was 
impressed by the dedication and professionalism of the vast 
majority of polling officials, members of the District Election 
Commissions and CEC members and staff, who worked diligently 
for long hours and under difficult conditions. Large numbers of 
political party and candidate agents and Palestinian 
nonpartisan election observers were present in polling stations 
and worked cooperatively with each other and election 
officials, thus adding to the transparency and credibility of 
the process. International election observers were granted 
unhindered access to the polls.
    Election monitoring by large numbers of party and candidate 
agents and the strong presence of nonpartisan Palestinian 
election observers, who monitored preelection events as well as 
election day developments, is a substantial achievement that 
represents the growing strength of Palestinian society to 
safeguard electoral integrity. These efforts by political 
competitors and by civil society groups, such as the Arab 
Thought Forum, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Gaza), 
the Palestinian Election Monitoring Committee, Filastiniyat, 
and others, made important contributions to a generally 
peaceful election day and the development of public confidence 
in Palestinian election processes.
    The high participation of women in the election process as 
election officials, political party and candidate agents, 
nonpartisan election monitors and as voters illustrates the 
commitment of Palestinians to the democratic elections and 
citizen participation in public affairs. The requirement that 
20 percent of the political party lists be women candidates was 
also a positive development, though the small number of women 
candidates for constituency majoritarian seats was 
disappointing (e.g., there was only one women on the ballot in 
Hebron, and reportedly she unofficially withdrew from the 
election). The generally high level of women's participation in 
other aspects of the process was nonetheless a positive feature 
of these elections.
    NDI and the Carter Center are independent, nongovernmental 
organizations that have conducted more than 100 impartial 
preelection, election-day and post-election observation 
missions around the world. Both organizations recognize that 
elections cannot be separated from the broader political 
process of which they are part. NDI's and The Carter Center's 
methodologies for assessing elections are based on the premise 
that all aspects of the election process must be considered to 
accurately understand the nature of an election. Considerable 
weight must be given to the preelection period as well the 
resolution of complaints and disputes following the initial 
proclamation of results.
    The delegation held meetings with Palestinian Authority 
President Mahmoud Abbas; the Chairman and officials of the 
Central Election Commission (CEC); representatives of the major 
competing political parties/candidate lists that have renounced 
violence; civic leaders; news media; political analysts; the 
heads of the European Union, European Parliament and Canadian 
Observation Missions; other representatives of the 
international community who are concerned with supporting a 
democratic Palestinian election process; and senior Israeli 
Government officials and analysts. The delegation worked in 
close cooperation with Palestinian nonpartisan election 
monitoring organizations and with the European Union's 
International Observation Mission.
    Delegates divided into teams and deployed to 14 electoral 
districts in the Palestinian Territories for meetings with 
governmental, electoral, political, and civic leaders in their 
respective localities. On election day, the teams observed the 
voting, counting and tabulation processes in over 300 polling 
centers selected on the basis of a scientific statistical 
sample and at District Election Commissions. Delegates then 
reconvened in Jerusalem to debrief and develop this statement. 
The delegation expresses its gratitude to all with whom it met.