Analysis Calm Rests on the Shoulders of the IDF

Danny Rubinstein
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Danny Rubinstein

Judging by the actions of the Palestinian public and its leaders this weekend in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinians are trying to restore security, and the responsibility for calming down the situation is now in Israeli hands.

The most obvious sign of this was the fact that, despite its great military strength, Hamas did not participate in the revenge attacks carried out by Islamic Jihad activists.

Hamas' spokesman in Gaza, Mushir al-Masri, declared the organization would not stand idly by and allow Israel to isolate and attack Islamic Jihad, but that is exactly what happened.

The situation could change, but for now only Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades is cooperating with Jihad among the armed factions.

Al-Aqsa activists are angry with their own leadership and with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for reneging on promises to provide them with government positions in return for maintaining the cease-fire with Israel.

Jihad and Fatah cooperated on several recent incidents in the West Bank, including the shooting attack at the Gush Etzion junction. When Jihad leader Luay Saadi was killed by the Israel Defense Forces in Tul Karm last Monday, he was in the company of a Fatah activist, who was also killed. In addition, Jihad and the Al-Aqsa brigades have been holding joint press conferences in Gaza recently.

Hamas' current desire for calm seems to be connected to the Palestinian parliamentary elections scheduled for January. The organization realizes most Palestinians support the cease-fire with Israel - according to a poll published in the Palestinian press this weekend, nearly 80 percent of Palestinians in the territories are in favor of it.

With this in mind, it is the IDF that holds the key to preventing Hamas from returning to its old ways, since only Israeli measures against Jihad that affect the Palestinian population as a whole have the power to change the mood in the territories and lead Hamas to commit attacks again.

The Palestinian leadership believes the political pressure on the Islamic Jihad leadership from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian officers stationed in Gaza and senior PA officials will also contribute to restoring calm.

One of the results of this pressure was the announcement this weekend by a senior Jihad man in Gaza, Khaled Al-Batsh, that his movement remains committed to the calm and would stop its attacks against Israel if Israel stopped attacking Jihad activists.

The Ramadan holiday will end this Wednesday or Thursday, ushering in the three-day Id al-Fitr holiday (the exact timing depends on the sighting of the new moon). Palestinians believe this would be a convenient time, for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, for at least a temporary suspension of the violence.

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