The Islamist wave that is sweeping the Arab world coincides with preparations in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.

As it enters its 25th year, Hamas has every reason to look forward with optimism.

Hamas is convinced that if and when another parliamentary elections is held in the Palestinian territories, its representatives would win. Its leaders now have their eyes set on May 4, 2012, the date Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has set for the next elections.

Muslim Brotherhood victories in recent elections in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt are the best birthday gift for Hamas.

Some Hamas leaders are now boasting that the "Arab Spring" was in fact inspired by the rise of their movement to power in 2006.

"Hamas was and remains the address for the Arab Spring," said Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel. "The Arabs are taking an example from Hamas, the pioneer and leader of the great Islamic and national project."

According to Bardaweel, many representatives of the "Arab Spring" have admitted that Hamas's 'intifada" [against Israel] played a huge role in triggering the popular uprisings against secular Arab dictatorships.

Hamas is marking its anniversary five years after it came to power in a free and fair election that was held at the request of the US. in spite of warnings from Israel as to what the outcome would be.

Today, Hamas remains the dominant force in the Gaza Strip despite sanctions and blockades and efforts by Fatah to topple or undermine the Islamist regime.

Hamas is not only celebrating the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the Arab world, but also its success in clinging on to power I the face of enormous challenges.

No group or party in the Gaza Strip has been able to challenge Hamas's rule over the past five years. Nor has there been any kind of a popular movement there against Hamas.

Hamas remains strong and popular among many Palestinians for two reasons: First, many Palestinians continue to believe in Hamas's ideology, namely the desire to destroy Israel. Second, a large number of Palestinians continue to support Hamas because they do not see its rival ,Fatah, as a better alternative.

The "Arab Spring" and the recent prisoner exchange agreement with Israel have only bolstered Hamas's stature among Palestinians.

The Hamas celebrations should serve as a reminder to decision-makers in Washington and EU capitals that Abbas and his Fatah faction are not the only players in the Palestinian arena. The first question that these decision-makers should be asking is whether any deal they strike with Abbas would be worth the paper it was written on.

What if Israel signed a peace treaty with Abbas today and a few months later Hamas once again won the elections? Of course Hamas, which does not recognize the Oslo Accords in the first place, will not see itself bound by any agreement.

This is why it does not make any sense now to exert pressure on either Israel and Abbas to resume peace talks. The entire Middle East peace process must be put on hold until after the Palestinian election, and until after the dust settles in the Arab world and it becomes clear who is going to be in charge in these countries.

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