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Wherever he is, Sheikh Yassin must be smiling today. Israel's two major moves in the last two years - the serial assassinations of Hamas leaders and the pullout - led straight to a great Hamas victory. A new headline is created for five and a half years of intifada: From Red Dawn (Qassam attack code) to Green Dawn (Islamic renewal).

Israel is at a total loss. Both its political and military heads blindly accepted the Palestinian pollsters' results almost to the letter. The pollsters, who were proved wrong in the local elections in the territories, failed again.

However, Hamas was also surprised, if not by the victory itself then by shattering the Fatah. It will now have to maneuver between its local and overseas leaders.

It will have to decide almost immediately whether to negotiate with Israel. It must figure out how to pay the wages of some 150,000 Palestinian families working for the Palestinian Authority if the donor states stop the funds.

Israeli speakers will hasten to present Gaza as an Iranian extension. Israeli speakers yesterday said the vote outcome derived from the Palestinian public's disgust at the corruption. But it also indicates a certain acceptance of Hamas, which says land will only be regained by violent struggle.

The security chiefs played a secondary role in the urgent consultation Ehud Olmert called yesterday. The cabinet will decide how to deal with Hamas.

The IDF is expected to continue arresting Hamas activists in the West Bank, but Israel will refrain from assassinating Hamas leaders. The more urgent problem is that frustrated Fatah gangs and later groups of policemen - should they stop being paid - may vent their rage by attacking Israelis.

Hamas has no interest in resorting to terror now. Its leaders tried to calm things down internally and with regards to Israel, hinting at a prolonged cease-fire.

Forming a Hamas-Fatah coalition could be convenient to all parties. Life is stronger than official stands. Ultimately everyday needs will dictate contacts, even indirect ones, between Israel and Hamas. Still, make no mistake, Hamas' rise to power is bad news for the region and for Israel.