I don't usually link to subscription-only articles, but Yossi Klein Halevi has written an exceptionally fine analysis of the meaning of Hamas's election victory.
The opening paragraphs spell out the lesson that should be plain to everyone by now:
Here then is the real asymmetry of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Precisely at the moment when a majority of the Israeli people has accepted not just the political necessity but moral legitimacy of a Palestinian state, the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people empowers its most hateful and triumphalist ideology.
A two-fold spin has already begun. The first spin concerns Hamas. The same commentators who once assured us that power and responsibility would transform Yasir Arafat from terrorist to statesman now assure us that Hamas leaders similarly will be transformed by the process of governance. Fatah was supposed to control Hamas; now, presumably, Hamas will control itself.
And so get ready for the era of the wink and the hint. Experts will examine Hamas statements for signs of the slightest shift; they will ignore what Hamas tells its own people and celebrate every seemingly reasonable utterance to Western journalists. And Hamas leaders will readily oblige: They will speak of "peace," just as Arafat spoke of the peace of the brave. And the peace they will mean, as the bitter Israeli joke once went, is the peace of the grave.
The essence of Hamas is a commitment to destroy the religious affront of Jewish sovereignty. For Hamas to "moderate" would mean turning into an apostate of its own most sacred truth. If the process of moderation didn't happen to the less devout Fatah, which continues to reject Israel's legitimacy and now opposes terror only on temporary tactical grounds, it surely won't happen to Hamas.
The second spin concerns the Palestinian people. Palestinians, we're being told, didn't really intend to vote for the bad Hamas that blows up buses and promotes Holocaust denial and enshrines the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its charter. They were simply fed up with Fatah corruption and voted for the good Hamas that provides social benefits and a sense of discipline and purpose. True, Palestinians were understandably outraged at Fatah, which was the recipient of billions of dollars of foreign aid and managed in the last decade not to rehabilitate a single refugee camp. Yet to excuse the landslide vote for Hamas is to continue to patronize the Palestinian people, as most of the international community did through five years of suicide bombings. Palestinians voted for a movement for whom means and ends are identical: The suicide bombings are mini-preenactments of Hamas's genocidal impulse. Not to hold the Palestinians responsible for their fate, when they vote democratically, is to deny them the right to define themselves.
In truth, Hamas's victory doesn't mark the end of the peace process. That's because the peace process ended five years ago, when Arafat responded to Ehud Barak's peace overtures with the terror war. A recent poll asked Israelis the following question: If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, uproots the settlements, redivides Jerusalem, and signs a peace treaty with a Palestinian state, would the conflict end or would terror continue? Some 70 percent responded that the conflict would continue. And that was before the rise of Hamas. What the Hamas victory has ended, then, is the pretense of a peace process.
Unfortunately, because self-deception will continue to hold sway in many quarters, we'll be treated to what are now the usual useless appeals to restart the peace process.