The Palestinian election results have created a huge problem for Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. This is part of the age-old quandary that confronts any group seeking to topple a local power. When revolutionaries topple a government, they become the government - and now, Hamas's real problems have begun. They need to prove they can handle the day-to-day aspects of government.
The day-to-day aspects of government (keeping the streets safe, locking up criminals, and other things taken for granted in the United States) were something Fatah, the party Hamas just replaced, never really got right. There was a lot of corruption in the Palestinian Authority under Fatah. Hamas presented a cleaner alternative to Fatah's corruption, and attracted votes, particularly due to its social-welfare wing, which provided some services. Now, it has to deliver for the entire Palestinian population. Failing to deliver might not change much for Palestinian citizens, and Hamas may have to distract the population from failures at home via the usual method (blaming and attacking an external enemy - the Israelis). Hamas favors violence against Israel and refuses to recognize its right to exist.
However, Hamas also opens the Palestinians to a new vulnerability should they carry out such attacks. As a mere militant group, terrorist attacks are something that fall into a gray area of international law - somewhere between military action and law enforcement. However, as the entity in control of the Palestinian Authority, these terrorist attacks that were brushed off by the international community would be taken very seriously. When a government of one country starts killing citizens of another country, it is generally considered an act of war. In a straight-up war, a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority will lose - decisively. And nobody can really blame Israel for going after a government that carries out an attack that kills Israeli civilians. Even if only soldiers are attacked, Israel would still have a reason to take military action.
Hence, Hamas has entered into new and much more hazardous territory. How well it navigates this depends on how fast its leadership matures. That said, the election of this terrorist group is a setback for the Bush Administration, though, because for once, its insistence on democracy has now empowered an organization that was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Clinton Administration, proving the adage that one should be careful what they wish for - they just might get it. - Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)