THE GREAT EXPERIMENT
Much has happened in the decade between the first parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Authority (PA), in 1996, and the second, this year. The Oslo peace process staggered forward and then collapsed; a second Palestinian intifada raged and subsided; Israel erected a barrier fence along part of the West Bank and withdrew from Gaza; and Yasir Arafat, the founder and personification of Palestinian nationalism, passed from the scene. Meanwhile, Hamas -- the largest Islamist group in the Palestinian community -- continued its march into the political arena. Having boycotted the first elections, it campaigned vigorously in the second, and with its stunning victory in January, now stands poised to play a major role in Palestinian governance.
Hamas' involvement in the democratic process may strike many as a profound irony. After all, the group fields a private army, embraces violence as a political tool, regularly orchestrates terrorist attacks, and
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