"Alas, ‘the elections in the Palestinian Authority were supposed to be part of the democratic process, but they are not. There is no democracy in the world that would allow a terrorist organization to participate in elections,’ cried the new foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.
There is no basis, of course, for this emotion. Even the United States agreed to allow people suspected of terror activity to participate in its two new 'democracies' - Iraq and Afghanistan - if only in the hope that it might help the governments in these states win some sort of legitimacy. The U.S. also expressed quiet satisfaction about Hezbollah's participation in Lebanon's government for the first time. The administration believes that, in this way, an organization defined as terrorist might demonstrate greater political responsibility.
Livni, therefore, can calm down and turn her attention to several other non-democratic matters that are happening in the PA areas - the checkpoints, the felling of trees, the theft of land. Hamas' participation in the parliamentary elections is the least of her worries."
For more on the Palestinian elections, read here, here, here and here.
UPDATE: Veteran Israeli peace activist, journalist and politician Uri Avnery adds his voice of reason to the debate:
"Hamas's presence in the next Palestinian government is not a reason to reject peace negotiations. On the contrary, it is a compelling reason for starting them at long last. It would mean that we negotiate with the entire Palestinian spectrum (excluding only the small Islamic Jihad organization). If Hamas joins the government on the basis of Mahmoud Abbas' peace policy, it is manifestly ripe for negotiations, with or without arms, based on a hudnah (truce).
"Thirty years ago, when I started secret contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership, I was almost the only person in Israel in favour of negotiating with the organization that was at the time officially designated as "terrorist". It took almost 20 years for the Israeli government to come round to my point of view. Now we are starting again from the same point."