There are many things – both for good and for bad– that one would never have predicted during the last 14 years – since just before Rabin led Labor and Meretz to power in the spring of ’92. For example: that there would be a peace process with Arafat, that the first horrendous terrorist event of this period would be committed by a Jew (Baruch Goldstein at the mosque in Hebron), that Rabin would be assassinated by a Jew, that the peace process would be utterly betrayed by Arafat, that Sharon would be elected PM and four years later battle his own constituency in the militant settler movement to dismantle settlements, and that a peace-oriented leader would be elected to replace Arafat and then Hamas would be elected the other day. From one moment to the next, who really knows what to think?
I was as much surprised as anybody else with the Hamas election victory. But if Hamas forms a “government” – in the parliamentary sense of a cabinet – with Abbas remaining as president, this actually increases the possibility that the Palestinian Authority could move against Islamic Jihad (as well as renegade cells of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades). Hamas has not been the source of any or most violence since the current “lull” began in 2005 – a respite from the Intifada that is perhaps the one significant achievement of the Abbas presidency. The fact that Hamas is so disciplined may make it more possible for the PA to disarm the other terrorist groups; it would test Abbas’s strategy to coopt Hamas into positions of responsibility.