HAMAS….Exit polls sure have taken it on the chin lately, haven’t they? The latest casualty comes from yesterday’s elections in the Palestinian Authority, where the terrorist group Hamas appears to have won an outright majority, not the 30% minority the exit pollsters predicted.

Worldwide reaction has been understandably nervous, but the Aardvark counsels caution and patience:

It is an article of faith among virtually all Arabs and Muslims that in 1992 the United States and Europe green lighted the Algerian military coup after the Islamist FIS stood on the brink of electoral victory. This has been taken for a decade and a half as the definitive evidence that the American and European commitment to democracy was a hypocritical farce: democracy only if our allies won.

….For America, I think it’s extremely important right now to handle this right: honor the will of the people, demonstrate a commitment to democratic process, and see what happens. Give Hamas the chance to prove its intentions. Don’t get too upset about the inevitable bursts of objectionable rhetoric by excited victors ? test deeds, not early words. Above all, don’t give the Islamist hardliners the winning argument they crave about American hypocrisy. Refusing to deal with Hamas right now could effectively kill American attempts to promote democracy in the Middle East for a generation.

This is probably good advice. At this point, I imagine that even Hamas is stunned by the results, and the immediate rhetoric from its leaders is likely to be unrestrained. Give things a few weeks to cool down, though, and both action and rhetoric might start to adjust to the weight of actual leadership.

Or maybe not. But if they don’t, patience won’t have cost us anything.

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