Say you really want Hamas to win the current installment of the 60 Year War between Israelis and Palestinians. What's the most direct, efficacious way to go about this?
Simple. Just do exactly what Israel does.
The student of history may at this point note that during the 1970s and much of the 1980s, Israeli defense officials, keen to foster a faith-based counterweight to the Marxist ideology of hardline armed groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, quietly but crucially aided the leaders of the Gaza branch of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood - a group which, six days after the eruption of the first Palestinian uprising, was to found the Islamic Resistance Movement, whose acronym was Hamas.
But let us leave, for the moment, history aside. Let us look at what Israel is doing at present, and, as a result, the extent to which Hamas thrives.
1. If Hamas governance is untenable, act to make it work
Prior to the implementation of Israel's curious, loudly-trumpeted and, in the end, half-hearted lock-down of assistance to the Strip, Gazans had begun grumbling aloud about the corruption of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Instead of pulling out all stops to make sure that food, home heating fuel, schooling and health care were available to Gazans the length of the Strip, Hamas officials had begun diverting critical aid to their own people, a practice which led directly to the downfall of the previous Fatah regime.
As soon as Israel began curtailing its supply of electrical power to Gaza, Hamas played the move to the hilt, inviting journalists to a daytime cabinet meeting in which Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar sat in front of drawn curtains in a gloomy darkness, candles pointedly burning on the desk in front of them.
The aim of the Israeli move was to prod Gazans to rise up and topple the Hamas government. The result of the Israeli move was to shore up Hamas at a time when no one else would help.
2. If West Bank Arabs lean toward Fatah, undermine Fatah in any way possible
If police units of Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority begin to arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives in places like Jenin and Nablus, and have begun to restore a semblance of civilian order in places where the Israeli army has largely vacated, and if there is a lull in terrorism, order high-profile, guns-drawn, often lethal commando raids in the same areas, to underscore who's really in charge.
If there are any chances of renewed peace progress, such as internationally sponsored talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas in Annapolis, make certain to follow it up with announcements of new housing construction in especially sensitive areas beyond the Green Line, like the settlement suburb of Har Homa between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
If you have pledged to remove illegal outposts and freeze new settlement construction in many areas of the West Bank, renege.
If there is relative calm in the West Bank, make certain that all checkpoints , roadblocks, tall earthen barriers, impassable excavated trenches, locked entrance gates to villages, many of them intended to be only implemented for a few days duration, stay in place, regardless of the security role they may or may not serve.
If you are the defense minister, promise that Israel will soon begin making life easier for West Bank Palestinians, but then say in the next breath that it won't remove checkpoints for now, and that it has no timetable to allow already agreed-upon industrial zones funded by foreign governments and meant to supply Palestinians thousands of new jobs.
Have the Israeli army continue to stop Palestinians randomly in the streets of Ramallah, checking their identity papers. Have the Israeli army beat Palestinian policemen on duty in the West Bank.
3. If the Quartet supports a plan to shore up the PA, stonewall it
As PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad noted in an interview last week with Haaretz' Akiva Eldar, prior to the Hamas-initiated rupture of the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah, the U.S.-UN-EU-Russian Quartet backed a plan to lessen tensions and bolster the PA by placing the border crossings between Israel and Gaza under the responsibility of the Abbas-led Authority.
Israel, not in a position to say no to the Quartet, simply failed to say yes. And that was enough to stall the situation into further degeneration.
4. Do everything humanly possible to keep Gazans out of work
This benefits Hamas in a number of ways.
On a political level, if Gazans are forbidden from working in Israel, we can be certain that their only impressions of Israelis and of Israeli society will be those processed and broadcast by Hamas. The message will be clear: Israelis are bloodthirsty reincarnations of the Nazis. Israelis are monstrous defilers of Muslim shrines, ravenous thieves of Arab property, money-grubbing, international power-broking genocidal usurpers of Arab land. Israel is what stands between Palestinians and the glorious future of prosperity that is their birthright.
Certainly, this makes it easier for Gazans to support the concept of rocket attacks against Israeli towns, and the recent massacre at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.
On a financial level, if Israel bars Gazans from crossing in to work, if Israel freezes out subcontractors which once-shipped Gaza-manufactured good to Israeli firms, if Israel forbids the passage of raw materials across the border to allow Gaza industries to remain open, the Jewish state will be held responsible for the deepening despair of the Strip, something which Hamas has done nothing to rectify, but which can be blamed on Israel.
The result is already horrendous. Four of five Gazans now live on $2 or less a day, fed by donations from international agencies. Seven of 10 are out of work. Those who do work, bring in meager incomes. Electricity lasts for a quarter to a third of the day, following Israel's June bombing of the Strip's power station.
Promise to invade Gaza. Promise to bring holocaust down upon them. Promise to dismantle Hamas, topple Hamas, annihilate the terror infrastructure. Promise to "clean" Gaza of Hamas terrorists, "purify" it of the lesion of Hamas, once and for all.
In other words:
6. Make heroes of Hamas
7. If you do invade, lie about it
On the last day of the recent IDF incursion into Gaza, state radio's Reshet Bet news network opened its morning news broadcast by quoted army spokesmen as saying that in the five days of fighting, "some 100 terrorists have been killed."
That was the word on casualties. No mention of the fact that independent rights groups had determined that about half of the total of about 120 dead were unarmed civilians, and that about a third of the non-combatant dead were children.
8. Do not press for international peace keepers in Gaza
There is reason to believe that UN, EU, and other peacekeepers on the ground in northern Gaza could have an influence in curtailing Qassam fire, thus helping protect the Gaza population as well as the people of Sderot and the western Negev.
9. Leave the media battle to Al Jazeera and Hamas TV
Media authority Nachman Shai, who served as IDF chief spokesman during the 1991 Gulf war, has argued cogently that Israel must mount a strong media advocacy effort aimed at the Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims, broadcasting by satellite and Internet in Arabic, and presenting Israel's side in a light which the Muslim world audience has no access to at present.
It should also be pointed out that after decades of exposure to the west and sincere efforts to improve, Israel's spokesmanship for Europe and the States is still plagued by poor judgment, cronyism, poor presentation and, in some cases, poor command of languages.
10. Isolate Gaza no matter what
Thanks in part to Hamas' own knack for working against its own interests - and in favor of Israel's - you can depend on supporters of Israel to hold Hamas responsible for whatever happens to the Gazans. If Israel blockades all coastal areas, shoots at all Palestinians who approach its border fence, and keeps all Gazas bottled up within the Strip, a chorus in Israel and abroad will agree that Hamas brought it all upon itself.
Israelis will see little of the negative effects, apart from the criminal practice of rocketing Israeli population centers. Thus far, the Quartet, which fears, distrusts, and profoundly dislikes Hamas, is standing firm with Israel, regardless of the outcome of the policy of isolating Gaza.
But what if it doesn't work?
The fact is, it hasn't yet. The likelihood is that it will not. Why not?
The student of current affairs may sense a pattern here.
The bottom line: Distress + Hatred of Israel = Hamas Rule
The Palestinian credo of summud, steadfastness in the face of oppression, plays directly into Hamas' hands. Too bad that after all these years, all this failure, all this experience, Israel is doing exactly the same.
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