A couple of months ago, I wrote a post Interpreting the Hamas victory and where from here? in which I predicted that there were rocky times ahead in the short term, but looked with optimism towards a possible future in which Israelis and Palestinians might be able to resolve their long term differences. The upshot of the post was that Hamas, despite their commitment to violence, once they have to begin dealing with the day to day details of governing, would little by little have to moderate their stance. And most importantly, if that day ever comes, they (unlike the notoriously corrupt and ineffective leadership of Fatah) would have the authority with the Palestinian people to make any renunciation of violence stick. And it is true that Hamas, while not renouncing violence has made their own truce with Israel stick (though there are other militant groups they have not restrained, such as the Islamic Jihad militants who yesterday fired a Katyusha rocket into Israel from the Gaza strip.)
As for the short term concern of rockier times, I wrote,
The dilemma is obvious. Israel cannot sit down at the peace table with people whose only peace objective is to destroy them. And in the short term, it seems likely that the Israeli electorate is most likely to elect a candidate to lead that country who is a hawk as well (this outcome bodes well for Netanyahu in particular), fearing that Hamas in actual control of the Palestinian Authority will be a deadly threat.
I am glad I was wrong about that. Yesterday, the Israelis took a step towards peace. In what was in many ways as big a surprise as the Hamas victory, the Israelis picked the Kadima Party, founded by Ariel Sharon prior to his stroke and now headed by Ehud Olmert, to form a new government. With 28 seats in the 120 seat Knesset, they will need to form coalitions with other parties to govern, and the most likely coalition partner they will choose is the Labor Party, which won 20 seats, to form a center-left coalition. And most importantly, Israelis rejected the hard line warmongering of Netanyahu, as the Likud party won a paltry eleven seats, coming perilously close to minor party status. In fact, a wide range of minor parties, favoring everything from stricter religious laws to legalizing marijuana, won the rest of the seats (and these are domestic social priorities-- with big things like war and peace on the table, if they have to pass a law letting people smoke a joint, except on the Sabbath, in order to make it work, then they can do this.)
To date, Hamas has not shown any inclination at all to renounce violence. And Kadima's official stance is just as hardline, saying that if they can't reach an agreement with Palestinians by 2010, they will decide for themselves Israel's permanent boundaries and unilaterally impose them.
Nevertheless, if we get past the rhetoric and the blustering, I see a real spark here for a movement towards peace.