Like the blinded Samson, America has great power but cannot see its obvious use. Hamas running Gaza, contrary to what our politicians and pundits are saying, is an opportunity to move toward peace.

Of course this and all such opportunities can be expected to end in failure, but we should be recognizing the scraggly seedling of peace, and watering it wherever it grows. Our rejecting this chance for peace, just because it’s not likely to bring peace, makes as much sense as not wearing a seat belt because we probably won’t have an accident today. It’s dumb.

Hamas is more likely than Arafat’s crowd was to have a handle on the ‘terrorism’, dialing it up and (yes) down to suit its goals of the moment. Hamas politicians are presently struggling to create a little country, which must have them both exhilarated and exhausted. Schools, trade, food, money, diplomacy — it’s a new game for them.

Yes, they murdered many people, but so were the early prime ministers of Israel. Each premier had earlier run with gangs of thugs that drove the British out, bomb by bomb. It’s the way the game has always been played: kill your enemies and then build a state. Yes, Hamas leaders are still promising to kill their enemies, but that is partly insincere, a tool of politics. It’s cheerleading; it whips up support. President Bush is pulling on the same patriotism lever right now, with a squinty eye on November’s election.

The tool we used in the cold war — giving more money to a wobbly country than the Russians gave — is perfect for right now. We should not be dumping Gaza’s new government into the arms of Iran, Syria and the Saudis. That just boosts Arab solidarity and makes World War III more likely. Let’s try a little bribery, a little realism, and a little hope.