Sunday, June 17, 2007

They're Wrong-A Different View of Hamas' Conquest of the Gaza Strip

For an overview of recent events in the Gaza strip, click here.

Most analysis (i.e. this one from the Jerusalem Post) on Hamas' recent conquest of the Gaza Strip has focussed on the fact that, since Palestinian Authority ("PA") President Mahmoud Abbas sacked the Hamas government, international aid will once again flow to the PA. This will strengthen the moderate tendencies of Abbas and his Fatah party, the thinking goes, and eventually lead to a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank. There will be glaring differences between the situations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians in Gaza, under the harsh rule of Hamas and its thugs and starved of international aid and sympathy, will overthrow the "Islamic Resistance Movement" and reunite with their West Bank brethren, coming under the umbrella of the peace settlement.

This analysis has several faulty assumptions. Number one is that Fatah is a moderate party. Yes, the party may be secular rather than fundamental Islamist, but via its militias Fatah has committed heinous crimes and terrorist acts against Israel. One of those militias is the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, between 2002-2005 they have been responsible for terrorist attacks resulting in the death of at least 77 Israelis and countless wounded. Their tactics include shooting sprees, sniper attacks, and suicide bombings. The Brigade has often utilized teenagers and women to perpetrate these attacks. More recently (a week ago), the Brigade broke through the barrier between Gaza and Israel in a TV truck in an attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

The second faulty assumption is that Abbas has any control over what happens on the ground in the West Bank. Ever since Abbas came to power in 2005, all of the Palestinian territories have descended into complete chaos and all of the promises & attempts to bring the PA under "one gun" have failed. There is nothing to suggest that this situation will change any time soon, or that members of his own party will abide by any agreement Abbas makes with Israel.

The third misconception is that Palestinians will rebel against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Hamas will be able to impose something that has been desperately lacking: order. The group has already taken a step that both Abbas and Yasser Arafat were afraid to; they have started confiscating illegal guns. Unfortunately for Israel, Hamas' concept of "illegal" guns are any guns not used to attack the Jewish State. Nonetheless, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will welcome a new sense of safety and those that do not will lack the weapons to take a stand. In addition, Hamas will continue to get funds for social services from Iran, and the European Union--which has been divided on the economic blockade against Hamas from the beginning--will likely resume aid to the Gaza Strip in the near future.

The difference between the situations in the West Bank & Gaza Strip will indeed be glaring, but not in the way that most analysts currently contend. The West Bank will continue to be chaotic with roaming gangs of gunmen, while the Gaza Strip will be relatively quiet and peaceful. Consequently, Hamas will gain popularity in the West Bank and lead a similar coup in that territory.

The question is whether Israel will be able to take advantage of this scenario. But that is for another posting...