Despite suggestions from some Israeli, American and other Western officials that last week’s outrageous Hamas conquest of the entire Gaza Strip may somehow lead to a miraculous renaissance of the discredited Oslo peace process, such a prospect is highly unlikely.

Instead, the fact that some of the world’s most violent Arab Muslim extremists were allowed by officials in Washington, Jerusalem and other capitals to casually seize total control of a vital, if small, piece of Mediterranean coastal territory wedged between America’s closest Mideast ally, Israel, and Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt is further proof Western leaders are still fairly clueless about the true nature of their jihad-drunk Islamic extremist enemies. The takeover certainly would never have happened if Israeli leaders had resisted ongoing international pressure to evacuate all Jewish civilians and soldiers from the Gaza Strip.

Instead of portending a bold new horizon for the moribund, misguided U.S.-EU-inspired “land for peace” process, which is supposedly energized by the fact that we can now all happily deal with the irrelevant PLO remnant hanging on for dear life in the West Bank, the Hamas military triumph signals far more trouble ahead.

Among looming possibilities, nay probabilities if relative Western indifference continues to hold sway, is the collapse of the pro-Western Hashemite monarchy in Jordan. This would have grave implications for the entire region, especially for neighboring Israel and Iraq. Also likely to eventually crumble is Mubarak’s autocratic, yet at least relatively stable – if at times brutal – rule over Egypt. Saudi hegemony, as unpleasant as it often is, may also be severely jeopardized on the Arabian Peninsula, and the disappearance of the barely surviving anti-Syrian government in Lebanon would be almost a given.

The collapse of such basically pro-Western regimes – as bad as most of them are compared to, lets say, the elected governments of Denmark or Sweden – can only further embolden the hordes of Islamic warriors working night and day to drive American and British forces out of Iraq, and indeed, Western culture and influence out of the entire Middle East, and then eventually out of the entire world.

The Hamas triumph also drives the final coffin nail into the highly imaginary White House-backed Oslo peace process. Actually, that is probably a good thing, since the accords were based on the unbelievably na?ve proposition – pushed by some Israeli leaders like Shimon Peres and backed by many internationalists who shared the same rose-colored worldview – that Mideast Arab people groups, especially the Palestinians, but later also the Iraqis and maybe Egyptians and Jordanians, are now somehow ready to establish stable Western-style free vote democracies after decades of autocratic rule.

By the way, had Israel done half the things Hamas thugs did to their own people while “liberating” them from admittedly corrupt PLO Fatah rule, U.N. headquarters in New York would be awash with self-righteously indignant anti-Israel resolutions, spurred on by much of the world’s governments and media.

I was the first Israel-based journalist to focus on what was then a new offshoot of the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, called Hamas. I did that in my first book, “Holy War for the Promised Land,” which I began writing just one month after the group was formed in August 1988. I devoted over seven pages to the extremist group.

Reporting on the first Palestinian uprising that began in December 1987, I began the section on the top of page 169 with the subtitle “Islam Leads the Revolt.” That was followed two pages later by a five-page examination of the new Hamas founding charter under the subtitle “An Islamic Covenant.” Then I noted that Hamas represented the true “will of the people” in my estimation, predicting that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat would not in the end be able to thwart the Iranian-inspired threat Hamas would eventually pose to his declared intentions to lead his people to a two-state peace solution with Israel.

Despite severe criticism of my main thesis at the time from several of my Jerusalem-based media colleagues, all of that has sadly proved to be right on the money, as Hamas terrorists began blowing up Israeli buses, and thus wrecking the Oslo process, in April 1994, leading to its total collapse in the summer of 2000.

The Hamas takeover of Gaza portends another round of armed attacks upon Israel from Iranian-back forces, including Hamas, Hezbollah and its Palestinian allies in Lebanon, and probably also from Syria. It is also another serious blow to U.S. foreign policy in the region, which has been off course in my estimation ever since President Bill Clinton arm twisted a skeptical Yitzhak Rabin to shake hands with the weak and corrupt Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in September 1993.

This folly was followed by the Bush administration’s post-9/11 strategic error to widen the justified war against Taliban forces in Afghanistan with a massive regime-change attack upon Saddam Hussein. With “democracy” as the declared goal, the latter move could only predictably bring a Shiite-dominated government to that hellish country. As I and others warned in 2003, this in turn would only further embolden the region’s main threatening Muslim extremist actor, Shiite Iran, along with all of its allies, especially Hamas, Syria and the Iranian-Syrian puppet Lebanese Shiite force, Hezbollah.

I was actually taking a short break on a Tel Aviv beach last Thursday when the main fighting was going on in the nearby Gaza Strip. I had not heard the news that day, since my radio became the victim of a sudden wave the evening before that thoroughly soaked it (and me) in salt water. But all day long I could hear something eerily familiar to me – the sound of distant booms signaling major military activity.

It was a sound I frequently heard while living along the Israeli border with war-torn Lebanon in the early 1980s. I only had my suspicions confirmed later that evening when I was finally able to hear the news on another radio – the distant rumblings were coming from the trauma unfolding in the Gaza Strip, located just 35 miles south of Israel’s main urban center.

So now we have an Islamic fundamentalist state, Hamastan, backed by Syria and Iran, not far from Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion airport and Jerusalem.

The sad, disturbing fact is that a majority of Palestinians around Jerusalem also support the radical, banal thugs, as the Palestinian elections showed in early 2006, followed by Hamas victories in municipal elections in several cities like Bethlehem. Recent opinion polls also demonstrate continuing strong support for the radical movement, meaning the struggle could easily spill over to those areas as well.

In my estimation, all of this upheaval is clearly Iran’s hope and intention. Of course, the Israeli government and military are well aware of the ominous prospect that fighting will spill over into areas around Jerusalem and into nearby Jordan, which partly explains why a new, more experienced Israeli defense minister was quickly installed last week – the former army general and former prime minister, Ehud Barak. Whether he can focus on the explosive crisis instead of trying to undermine the other Ehud – current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – remains to be seen.

Neither the Palestinians nor Iraqis, nor any other regional Arab people group, are even remotely ready for Western-style democracy in my on-scene estimation. If we insist that they have a fully “free” vote – as the State Department and others did in 2005, imploring Israeli leaders to allow Hamas to run in the January 2006 PA elections since that was “true democracy,” despite the fact that the elections were set up as part of an Israel-Palestinian peace accord that Hamas totally opposed – radical Muslim groups backed by Iran and al-Qaida will only use such votes as a further tool in their aspirations to strike down all pro-Western regional governments.

And if the nations insist that Israeli leaders hand over more territory to its determined enemies, such land will only be used to launch further assaults against the only functional democracy in the turbulent Middle East.

So let’s try better to understand actual regional realities and not dwell in grand fantasies, which can be quite deadly in the end.

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