Long before the votes in this week's Palestinian legislative election were counted, the spin about the anticipated victory of Hamas had already begun.
As this newspaper went to press, polls showed that representatives of the Islamic fundamentalist terror group would take, at the least, a large percentage of the seats in the Palestinian legislature. Though it is possible that foul play or a last-second swing to the Fatah party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will change this, the likely outcome is a major boost for Hamas.
While this is bad news for Abbas, it's also bad for Israel and the United States, which both need a rational Palestinian interlocutor to maintain a semblance of a cease-fire even if further "progress" toward peace is considered unlikely.
Going into this election, even the European Union - a body highly sympathetic to the Palestinians - made clear that future aid to the P.A. would be compromised by the presence of Hamas members in the government. Likewise, the United States and Israel have made it clear that they would not deal with a terror group that calls for Israel's destruction, and that won't renounce violence in order to join the political process.
As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently, "One foot in terrorism and the other foot in politics. It simply doesn't work."
But as laudable as that statement may sound, Rice is wrong. Simultaneously pursuing political gains while conducting terrorism on the side does indeed work.
And no better example of this exists than Abbas' Fatah Party, which will probably be punished by Palestinian voters for a decade of corruption. Fatah always has pursued a double agenda, playing the moderate to the West while at the same time conducting terror operations via surrogates, such as the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade.
Whether or not Hamas takes a place in the Palestinian government, it will continue to operate on both tracks, as Fatah has done. Even before the voting takes place, some are already calling for Israel and the United States to forget their qualms about Hamas' terrorism.
Palestinians are primarily punishing Fatah for its misrule, rather than rewarding Hamas. But even as we acknowledge this, the vote forces us to come face to face with the reality of Palestinian politics.
While we don't doubt that soon optimists will be speaking of the "moderates" within Hamas who must be strengthened against the "extremists" (a point that has previously been employed to justify support for Abbas terrorist predecessor Yasser Arafat), Hamas is, by definition, immoderate. Palestinians may think they are casting protest votes in favor of "clean" government when they choose Hamas, but the reality is that they are allowing a group that regards Jews as the descendants of "monkeys and apes" to be their leaders. And a price must be paid for such a decision.
The illusion that real peace is still possible is rendered indefensible under these circumstances.
Last week's failed suicide bombing in Tel Aviv was carried out by a student at the Al-Najah University in Nablus. Those Jews with long memories may recall that it was at that institution of higher learning that an "art exhibit" mocked the brutal murder of Jewish mothers and children at a Jerusalem pizza restaurant. Palestinian violence doesn't breed in a vacuum.
Despite the spin of the "experts" urging us to ignore the reality of Hamas' rise to the top, such crimes are not aberrations. As long as Palestinian culture honors terror - and its politics legitimizes murder - any hope for peace is just an illusion.