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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 27, 2006

EDITORS: Please note that audio clips are available at the end of this news release. They are also available online at http://news.uiowa.edu/audio-current.html#wing

Professor Says Hamas Victory Is An 'Earthquake' In Middle East Politics

A University of Iowa law professor and Mideast expert said she is shocked by the results of this week's Palestinian elections and likens them to a political earthquake.

"This is an earthquake in Israeli-Palestinian relationships and an internal earthquake in Palestinian politics," said Adrien Wing. Hamas, a radical Islamist party dedicated to the destruction of Israel, won a clear majority of the seats in the Palestinian parliament over the incumbent party, Fatah, which had led Palestinians since its founding by Yassar Arafat 40 years ago and had led the Palestinian government for nearly 10 years. The results complicate the always-complex Israeli-Palestinian relationship because of Hamas' commitment to violence and terrorism.

Wing, who is also an expert on constitutional law, helped the Palestinians write their Basic Law in the mid-1990s and knows many of the players in Palestinian politics. She visits the region frequently, the most recent time earlier this month, and said many of the people she talked with who planned to vote for Hamas candidates are far from radical. Fatah was criticized by many for being corrupt  and incompetent after being in power for so long.

"There were a wide range for reasons people voted for Hamas," Wing said. "I talked to a lot of people who do not endorse in any way the destruction of Israel...They were voting for Hamas because Fatah had failed."

As for whether the U.S. and Israel should work with Hamas, Wing said that depends on whether Hamas is truly willing to give up its campaign of violence and terror.

"If Hamas can credibly renounce its calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, then the United States and Israel will have to engage with it," she said. "But not until they can commit to (ending) their calls for the destruction of the state."

Of more immediate concern to Palestinians, she said, is if Hamas can govern. Wing said the party has never held a single parliamentary seat before and so the nuances of providing responsible government services will be new to them. Will they adopt strict Islamic laws that require women to wear headscarves? Will they adopt an education system where students simply memorize passages from the Koran? Will they be able to re-open the airport, revitalize the economy and pick up the trash on time?

"Do they even have anyone who knows how to draft a bill in parliament?" Wing said.

Wing said she also worries that a civil war could result if Hamas can't adjust to being a responsible majority party, or if Fatah can't adjust to being in the minority.

Ultimately, Wing said the question will be if Hamas can "change its stripes" to become a responsible governing party and renounce violence against Israelis. She's hopeful it can, pointing to the example of the PLO, which renounced its call for the destruction of Israel and eventually negotiated with its old enemy.

"Old enemies of many years can move forward," Wing said.

AUDIO: Following are links to mp3 audio files of Wing discussing various aspects of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections. A link to Wing's replies follows each question. Links to the files also are available at

Q. What is your overall impression of the election results in the Palestinian elections? (1.4 Mb)

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2006/audio/012706wing-main.mp3

Q. Can Hamas renounce its long-held belief in the use of terror and its call for the destruction of the state of Israel?

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2006/audio/012706wing-hamas-violence.mp3

Q. Were the people who voted for Hamas voting in favor of the party's more radical positions, including the call for the destruction of Israel, or were they merely fed up with the corruption and incompetence of the Fatah party? (621 kb)

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2006/audio/012706wing-why-won.mp3

Q. Should the United States and Israel work with Hamas? (301 kb)

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2006/audio/012706wing-us-relationship.mp3

Q. How prepared is Hamas to effectively govern the Palestinians? (302 kb)

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2006/audio/012706wing-hamas-surprise.mp3

Q. What dangers and challenges face the Palestinians as they moved forward after the elections? (273 kb)

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2006/audio/012706wing-civil-war.mp3

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.