Juan Cole blames Bush for the triumph of Hamas.
... the president's attempt to dismiss the old ruling Fatah Party as corrupt and inefficient, however true, is also a way of taking the spotlight off his own responsibility for the stagnation in Palestine. Bush allowed then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to sideline the ruling Fatah Party of Yasser Arafat, to fire missiles at its police stations, and to reduce its leader to a besieged nonentity. Sharon arrogantly ordered the murder of civilian Hamas leaders in Gaza, making them martyrs. Meanwhile, Israeli settlements continued to grow, the fatally flawed Oslo agreements delivered nothing to the Palestinians, and Bush and Sharon ignored new peace plans -- whether the so-called Geneva accord put forward by Palestinian and Israeli moderates or the Saudi peace plan -- that could have resolved the underlying issues. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which should have been a big step forward for peace, was marred by the refusal of the Israelis to cooperate with the Palestinians in ensuring that it did not produce a power vacuum and further insecurity.
It also looks like Bush is maneuvering for some room to negotiate with Hamas:
In his press conference on Thursday, Bush portrayed the Palestinian elections in the same way he depicts Republican Party victories over Democrats in the United States: "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 healthcare." He sounds like a spokesman for Hamas, underlining the irony that Bush and his party have given Americans the least honest government in a generation, have drastically cut services, and have actively opposed extension of healthcare to the uninsured in the United States.
I've said before that there isn't much cause for optimism, but I also think there is a tiny chance for progress. It's all well and good to bewail the fact that Hamas engages in terrorism of the most despicable sort, but, hey, lest we forget, Fatah didn't exactly get its start as a peace movement. There are two huge questions: will Hamas deal? Will Israel make a reasonable offer? Naturally, there are plenty of people who will think of all kinds of reasons why neither of these will happen, and there are those who will work hard to prevent a peace. These latter undoubtedly include the Iranian government officials to whom Hamas is tied as well as the fanatical settlers and fundamentalists, both of whom seem committed to a genocidal strategy.