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No way to avoid Hamas now

Excluding the militant group won't secure peace in the Middle East.

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Last week, the Palestinian militant organization Hamas masterminded a spectacular "bust-out" into Egypt of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, where Israel has been maintaining a tight siege for many years. That bust-out reinforced the strength of Hamas's popular support among Palestinians and has started to change the political map of the region.

Isn't it now time for the United States to find a way to deal with Hamas, directly or indirectly? How can President Bush realize his aim of creating a viable Palestinian state this year if his administration continues to pour energy and funds into the crushing of Hamas, which has repeatedly shown that it has the support of a large proportion of Palestinians?

Yes, over the years, Hamas's armed branch has committed many violent acts that deserve criticism. But so have numerous others in the Middle East – including militants in Iraq whom the US is now funding and trying to bring into the political process there. Hamas, unlike those newly embraced networks in Iraq, is already an established, broad political movement that has proved its support in national elections. In parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats.

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