It is now clear that Hamas has won the Palestinian elections. Equally clear is the challenge this poses to all parties involved: to the outside world (Israel, the EU and the US) on how to deal with an organisation that still officially endorses terrorism and the annihilation of Israel, and to Hamas itself on whether it wants to become respectable and change something on the ground for Palestinians.
My bet is that Hamas will, indeed, choose the respectable route, even if it may take some time before the rhetoric changes accordingly. A sign of this is the fact that it chose to take part in the elections at all, and that it has declared and kept a cease-fire over the past year. This shows that its’ leaders not only have brains but also influence over their followers. Such a decision makes sense, because taking the respectable route is the sensible thing to do also from their own point of view. After all, by taking part in the elections they have achieved more power and a better negotiating position in a few months of campaigning than in decades of terrorist attacks. (more…)