Left: Supporters of Hamas celebrate in Ramallah; photo courtesy of AP.
The stunning victory by Hamas in yesterday's election likely signals an era of increased conflict in the Middle East, and it appears that the militant political group has achieved a majority of the seats in the country's Legislative Council.
Whatever the true aims of Hamas, which has a history of supporting terrorist acts against Israeli civilians, it is difficult to see how the electoral results can be shown in a positive light.
Israeli politicians will likely perceive this turn of events as an affront to any good faith efforts they have put forth, and this probably bodes well for hard right Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli voters take to the polls in a little over two months, and the fear of increased violence will weigh heavily on their minds.
Some try to spin this as a sign that Palestinian voters are frustrated with the corruption and ineffectiveness of Fatah, and there is a good case to be made that the death of Yasser Arafat doomed the party he founded.
That is little consolation for those who desire peace in the region, though. Yes, the Palestinians may have voted for Hamas in a collective fit of "throw da bums out," but it is difficult to find a hope for peace in the rhetoric of Hamas, which refused to back away from its official stance that Israel should be "destroyed."
It is also unclear if the Hamas-led government will even achieve recognition by Western nations, which will deal a blow to President Bush's vision of a democratic Middle East if the US chooses not to recognize the democratically-elected Palestinian government.
In any case fears of a widening Middle East war loom even larger.
Update: I just listened to the President's news conference.
"I don't see how you can have a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform," he said. "I know you can't be a partner in peace if your party has an armed wing."
It should also be noted, as an observant reader reminded me in an email, that Hamas is still on the US government's terror watch list.