Paul Greenberg

The Arabs tell a story about two hunters who go searching for pheasants on a cold winter's morning. It is so cold that their eyes are streaming with tears. In the brush, one pheasant turns to another and says, "What kindly creatures are these approaching. See how they cry with pity for us."

To which the older, wiser pheasant responds, "Don't watch their eyes. Watch their hands!"

Moral of the story: Pay attention not to how men appear but what they do.

In the aftershock of Hamas' landslide victory in the Palestinian elections, there's a lot of posturing going on. On all sides.

Behind all the flag-waving and the celebratory bursts of fire from the Kalashnikovs, Hamas' leaders let it be known they'll stick with the hudna, their temporary truce with the Israelis. They will never recognize Israel, they still proclaim, but, in an aside to the West, they assure us they can recognize reality.

In hopes of being recognized themselves, they speak of forming a government of technocrats. Translation: a government free of terrorist stain. They may not want to accept Israel, but they want to be accepted, and that is the chink in their ideological armor.

The official position of the Israeli government remains unchanged: It will never negotiate with terrorists. But isn't that what it used to say about Yasser Arafat's PLO? The Israelis, too, can recognize reality - and election returns.

Israeli military commanders on the West Bank already negotiate with mayors and other local officials who've been elected on the Hamas ticket; there's no other way to maintain a halfway decent peace. Once all the rhetoric clears, why not reach the same tacit accommodation with this new Hamas-dominated regime?

No need to admit it, or explain it, or rationalize it. Just do it. Accommodation is its own justification. One must live, which in these circumstances means that others must, too.

Meanwhile, America and Europe are keeping Hamas on their extensive list of terrorist organizations, as they should. It's a way to send a message: Terrorism doesn't pay. And won't pay. Those leaders of Hamas who won't renounce violence need to have their travel restricted; nor will they be received in civilized society.

As for those Hamas types who actually practice terrorism, they should know they run the risk of being inconvenienced in other ways - say, by the occasional fatal blast.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.