Q: What happens when a bunch of homicidal maniacs get elected to a parliament?
A: We're about to find out.
Of course, the characterization of Hamas as "a bunch of homicidal maniacs" is an oversimplification. Hamas is known to Palestinians as a charitable organization that helps the poor of Palestine more effectively than the current government. Hamas is also a change from the current corrupt Fatah government.
That having been said, they're still officially known as the Islamic Resistance Movement. (This, even though they're obviously reading doctored versions of the Koran that condone baby murder, and even though they couldn't effectively resist their way out of a paper bag.) This speaks volumes about Hamas' real intentions.
Perhaps being a part of a government will moderate them and get them used to the compromises necessary in pragmatic politics. However, Hamas has pretty much had the run of things in Gaza since the Israeli pullout, and they have done absolutely nothing to demonstrate that they know what it takes to craft a viable state. Meanwhile, they continue their counterproductive belligerent rhetoric and refuse to disarm.
It was once easy to dismiss Hamas as a fringe movement. I once thought that both Palestinians and Israelis wanted peace. But today Palestinians have spoken, and they have said in no uncertain terms that peace is way down there on the list of priorities. I used to be in opposition to the security barrier being built along the West Bank, reasoning that two peoples should not be torn apart by the deranged actions of a bunch of crazies. But if Palestine is going to be run by these crazies...
Perhaps Hamas will surprise all of us and prove their maturity. Maybe they'll realize that peace - or at least nonviolence - is in everybody's best interests, including their own. Either way, having an honest Palestinian government that has the trust of its people is a good thing. One thing that the peace process has been lacking is a viable bargaining partner on the Palestinian side. The Fatah government was corrupt and widely distrusted. Problem is, Hamas is showing no signs of coming out of its petulant-five-year-old shell and coming to the bargaining table.
There is another silver lining. Israelis were unable to make peace with any of their neighbors for the first thirty years of their existence. They were under a Labor government during that time. In 1977 Israeli voters gave the hard-line Likud party, under Menachem Begin (who masterminded a massacre of Arabs at Deir Yassin some years earlier), a chance at a government. A year later, Begin signed the Camp David Accords with Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat. The moral of the story: sometimes the hard-liners, who have the trust of the most radical citizens of their country, are the best equipped to make peace.
Let's hope this is how it goes with Hamas. They certainly have the trust of the Palestinian radicals. Hell, they are the Palestinian radicals.