As great a danger as a Hamas regime in Gaza represents for the State of Israel, it represents a far greater danger to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, on principle, and threatens a military struggle and terror attacks, but Israel's ability to defend itself against Hamas is clear. On the other hand, for the PA and its nationalist movement, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas is an existential threat against which they have difficulty defending themselves. If Hamas wins, the entire essence of the Palestinian nationalist movement is liable to change. Proof of this can be seen in the exchange of accusations between Hamas spokesmen and the PA (the PLO and Fatah), which are intensifying by the day.
Most of the things Hamas activists are saying about Fatah members are familiar: You are corrupt, you stole the people's money in order to live a life of luxury. You are informers and collaborators with the Israeli Shin Bet security services and U.S. intelligence. You live according to loose morals and adopt the inferior lifestyle of the West (you get drunk, you are not strict about modesty in dress, etc). You send your children to study and to vacation abroad, while our children are fighting and dying, or rotting in Israeli prisons.
Fatah spokesman reply to them: You are extremist fanatics, who are serving the Shi'ites in Iran. You have relinquished the nationalist idea in order to establish an Islamic religious state. You don't care if your Islamic state is established in Afghanistan or in Palestine. You have no respect for democratic values, you have carried out a bloody coup and seized the government in Gaza by means of murder and terror. You tried to murder PA Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), and your leaders send young boys to carry out suicide attacks, but not their own children. (This is an accusation leveled by the head of intelligence in the West Bank, Tawfiq Tirawi, against one of the heads of Hamas in Gaza, apparently Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who prevented his son from carrying out a suicide attack).
Although there are differences of opinion in the Hamas leadership - and one can distinguish between those who are more extreme and those who are less so - the Fatah leadership, in contrast to them, is a pile of ruins. A large group of Fatah leaders in Gaza is conducting a friendly dialogue with Hamas, and some are even openly cooperating with Hamas. From some of the Fatah leadership in the West Bank there have been demonstrations of friendliness toward Hamas. At the end of last week Nabil Amr, Abu Mazen's intimate adviser, declared that a member of the Fatah central committee, Hani al-Hassan, had reached a low point with respect to collaboration with Hamas (because of an interview that Al-Hassan gave to Al Jazeera).
The embarrassment and confusion in the top echelons of Fatah stem first and foremost from the clear impression that the Palestinian street favors Hamas. In light of this, there is now a situation where Fatah activists on the West Bank are waiting for the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces to do their dirty work of repressing and eliminating Hamas in Gaza. Israel will punish Gaza by imposing a siege, with limitations on electricity and water and to some extent on food as well. The IDF will bomb and destroy the area from Beit Hanun to Rafah. Arab states will also benefit from that, since the continuation of Hamas rule in Gaza encourages the Muslim opposition in their countries.
The loser will be Israel, which will be accused once again of crimes against the civilian population. Among the leadership of the PA, in most of the Arab regimes, and of course in Europe, America and Israel, nobody wants Hamas, whose support comes mainly from the general Palestinian public. It is clear today to every Palestinian that if Hamas is not in the game, then there is no game. Abu Mazen will not be able to fulfill any agreement with Israel without an arrangement with Hamas. Abu Mazen and the PLO, and the Arab regimes, have to get along with Hamas, and not with the "help" of a siege, or via assassinations or starvation policies carried out by Israel.
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