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Hamas in charge

A terrorist government, elected or not, deserves no support from America.

Twenty-nine-year-old David Shaulov was among the nine murdered victims of Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. His wife, Varda, is nine months pregnant with their third child. Another victim, Marcelle Cohen, 75, a French citizen, was on a Passover visit with Israeli relatives. Then there was Binyamin Hafuta, 47, the security guard who blocked suicide bomber Sami Hamad from entering the crowded falafel restaurant that was the target, thereby saving possibly a dozen lives.

The bombing was only the third such attack this year. That's a testament to Israel's counterterrorism prowess and to its security barrier, which the U.N.'s International Court of Justice has deemed "contrary to international law." Remind us of that ruling the next time Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaks of the U.N.'s "unique legitimacy."

The relative paucity of terrorist atrocities is not a testament to Palestinian restraint. The Hamas-led government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh defended the bombing as a legitimate act of Palestinian self-defense. When President Mahmoud Abbas described the bombing as "despicable," masked Palestinian gunmen held a press conference in Gaza to demand his apology.


We often speak of terrorist "regimes," governments such as those in Syria and Iran that harbor terrorist groups and sponsor terrorist acts. Implicit in the term is a distinction between ruler and ruled, oppressor and oppressed. But Mr. Haniyeh's government took office following a competitive election; the Hamas Charter, which calls on its members to "obliterate" Israel and (quoting the Koran) "fight the Jews and kill them," is well known to Palestinians.

So it is not just the Palestinian leadership that bears responsibility for Monday's mayhem, but the electorate that put that leadership in place. Their choice can be explained in a number of ways, one of which is that Hamas credibly presented itself as the clean-government alternative to Mr. Abbas's notoriously corrupt Fatah party. There's some truth in that. But the deeper explanation is the incessant campaign of anti-Israel demonization launched by Yasser Arafat following the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1993. The main difference between the Hamas government and Arafat's is that Hamas is more honest about its terrorist ambitions.

The case has been made that the Palestinian choice of government undermines the logic of the Bush Administration's democracy agenda. But democracy always involves the risk that the bad guys might come to power: Look at Germany in 1933. By contrast, failing to promote democracy only guarantees that the bad guys--the Gadhafis, the Assads, the Husseins--will stay in power. Given the choice, the Administration has been right to take the risk.


The question is what to do now with a Hamas government that rejects the very basis of the Authority it now governs: Palestinians agreed to recognize the state of Israel under the Oslo Accord that also created the Palestinian Authority. Clearly, Israel is fully entitled to do what it must to protect its own citizens, and it has shown notable restraint this week. But ultimately, Palestinians need to confront the consequences of their electoral choices, at least if there's any hope of altering their destructive ambitions toward their neighbors. That means imposing, as the Bush Administration has done, a diplomatic and economic embargo, and encouraging other countries to join ranks.

Not all of them will do so--Russia, Venezuela, Syria and Iran have already made open overtures to Hamas, and other governments have no doubt done so secretly. But that's no reason for the U.S. to fold to an assembly of outcast states, nor to undervalue our ability to bring others to our side. A government that cheers the indiscriminate killing of David Shaulov and Marcelle Cohen deserves no help, and no sympathy, from any civilized nation, least of all the United States.



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