The debate in Israel about whether or not Hamas' victory in last months Palestinian Legislative Council elections will turn out to be positive or negative for the Jews misses the point of the Hamas victory.
Many people (mainly, but not only, on the political "right") feel Hamas' election victory will turn out badly for Israel, because the organization is committed to destroying the Zionist state and was responsible for most of the suicide attacks that defined the four-year suicide intifada.
Hamas' successful run to power is assumed to expand that organization's ability to strike Israel.
Others (mainly, but not only on the political "left), feel Hamas' election will force the group to moderate and display some pragmatism now that it carries the responsibility that comes along with power and must provide bread and jobs to its constituency.
Both could turn out to be wrong. First of all, what the additional power will government bring Hamas? What will it be able to do that it can't already do?
One could argue that Hamas will gain expanded operational capability with the use of the PA and its institutions. But it is important to understand that the threat presented by these forces is far less than that presented by suicide bombers.
We must not repeat the mistake we made at the beginning of the intifada and waste time fighting PA forces. We must understand that the problem is not civil disobedience or kids blocking traffic. Rather, it is the threat to everyday life that comes from suicide bombers.
Only following a long and painful process did we manage to learn our lesson and begin to build a policy of action that brought about a drastic reduction in the number of suicide attacks in Israel.
This policy included extensive diplomatic initiatives, isolating terror commanders (mostly Hamas and Islamic Jihad), re-occupying the West Bank, wide scale arrests and targeted killings of central terror operatives (including Hamas leaders Sheikh Yassin and Dr. Rantissi).
All these brought about a Hamas decision to declare a unilateral cease fire – not because they suddenly saw the light of Zionism, but rather because of pressure.
On the other hand…
But the claim that Hamas could now moderate could also be flawed. It sounds reasonable enough, but the Palestinians have proven time and again that when faced with a choice between radical ideology and pragmatic compromise (starting with the Peel Commission and including the U.N. partition plan), they do not necessarily choose compromise.
Hamas' victory in free elections does not represent a change in the Palestinian position or show that they have moved to the extreme. It only reveals their true feelings.
Israeli right-wingers and leftists alike must understand that this is the will of most Palestinians. We must understand this because we this is an ongoing fight that will continue for many years, and the most dangerous enemy we face is not terrorism (we can beat that), but rather self-deception.
In conclusion, Hamas' victory will not bolster terror because we are the ones who will prevent terror. That has not changed.
It will also not necessarily lead to Hamas' moderation. The organization will remain what it has always been.
The only change that has happened is in our ability to read the enemy. In this context, and perhaps only in this context, the Hamas victory is good for the Jews: No more Palestinians speak in the soft voice of Jacob while using the bloody hands of Esau to carry out terror attacks.
Gen. (mil) Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael is the head of the Security Studies Program at Tel Aviv University