In the aftermath of Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections, Professor Marc Lynch writes:

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 alll, 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. And get it right from the start – initial impressions of the American response will be extremely important.

And, just a few hours later, President Bush does what Lynch recommends in his news conference.

QUESTION: Mr. President, is Mideast peacemaking dead with Hamas’ big election victory? And do you rule out dealing with the Palestinians if Hamas is the majority party?

BUSH: Peace is never dead, because people want peace. I believe — and that’s why I articulated a two-state solution early in my administration so that — as a vision for people to work toward, a solution that recognized that democracy yields peace and the best hope for peace in the Middle East is two democracies living side by side.

BUSH: So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy.

You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls, they — and if they’re unhappy with the status quo, they’ll let you know.

That’s the great thing about democracy: It provides a look into society.

And yesterday, the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls. And that’s positive.

What was also positive is that it’s a wakeup call to the leadership.

BUSH: Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo.

The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care.

And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories.

I like the competition of ideas. I like people that have to go out and say, “Vote for me and here’s what I’m going to do.” There’s something healthy about a system that does that.

And so the elections yesterday were very interesting.

On the other hand, I don’t see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform.

And I know you can’t be a partner in peace if you have a — if your party has got an armed wing.

BUSH: And so the elections just took place. We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government.

But I will continue to remind people about what I just said: that if your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you’re not a partner in peace. And we’re interested in peace.

Coincindence? I think not! It will be interesting to watch the evolution of US policy over the next few months and Lynch’s commentary on it. In the days before blogs, there was no way for an Eph alum to get insights from a Williams professor on important issues of the day. Now, we get them in real time. Just another sort of log, I guess.

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