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Hamas Dilemma

25 November 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

This week Hamas announced its “shock” at the agreement by Arab foreign ministers to attend the Annapolis conference, quickly condemning the Arab World for legitimizing the Israeli “conquest” of Palestinian lands by their participation.  The Islamist Hamas is in a bind.  Five months after capturing the Gaza Strip and completely routing the secular Fatah Palestinian Authority forces they have still not consolidated control.  Just two weeks ago on the commemoration of the death of Yasir Arafat, a pro-Fatah rally of a reported 200,000 proved just how much farther Hamas needs to go before completing their victory.  The demonstration was broken up by Hamas terrorists who opened fire, killing eight and wounding dozens.  Hundreds were arrested. 

According to reports available, until now the Hamas revolution can be judged as relatively non-violent, with somewhat over 200 killed and hundreds injured.  Most Gazans wanted Fatah out and therefore clashes with the general population did not take place.  But with an almost total economic boycott by the West and the closure of most of the crossings between Israel and the Strip as a result of terror attacks against Israelis working these passages (plus innumerable rocket attacks against Sderot and the western Negev) Gaza’s population is beginning to have second thoughts concerning the Hamas dictatorship.  

The Hamas dilemma is reaching a boiling point.  To solidify their revolution they must either win the hearts and minds of the populace through persuasion and an improved life style or remain in power through terror.  The first option was certainly preferable but the second is becoming more likely.  A third option exists where power sharing with Fatah is re-implemented, but this would be an admission of failure in the wake of the relatively easy June overthrow of the widely detested and hopelessly corrupt Fatah dominated PA government.

With more than sufficient amounts of weapons, ammunition, explosives and very high ideological motivation the Annapolis conference could be the trigger for a massive explosion. It will begin with innumerable rocket and attempted terror attacks against Israel in an attempt to unify all against a common enemy.  Afterwards or even concurrently we can expect another internal sweep, but this time much more brutal, against all blatantly anti-Hamas forces, militia related or political.  Those clan and tribal leaders in the middle gray areas will first be offered alliances and incentives to support the Hamas regime and depending on their response, will either be brought into the fold or suffer the consequences of rejecting the overtures.  Lacking solid international allies except Iran and a wavering Syria, Hamas can ill afford any internal opposition and must act quickly to curtail such a development. 

Paradoxically the Islamists are losing support in the street while consolidating their own military abilities through intensive training for a major IDF operation.  To save the regime PM Ismail Haniyah and his cabinet need a major Israeli incursion to help him unify all against the “external threat” and if not he will be forced to turn those same arms against an increasingly restless population.  Ironically, serious Israeli military action will forestall a possible “reign of terror” against anti-Islamist forces but should Israel just continue containing terrorist initiatives through increased skirmishing on the border and not respond forcefully, Hamas will have no choice but to take deadly action against its own discontented masses. 

It may be sooner rather than later that Hamas will be forced to take action.  Annapolis, whether deemed a failure or success, may be just the catalyst necessary to spark such a

move.  After all, implicit or explicit recognition of Israel’s right to exist is a call to war for Hamas not only against the Jewish State but against those “traitors” in the Arab World who would take such a step.  Hamas will want to eliminate any “traitors” in their midst.