ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Hamas Power Sharing in Gaza 5.4.04

Hamas Power Sharing in Gaza

05 April 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

The great policy debate has exploded over the political future of the Gaza Strip once Israel disengages. The Palestinians are speaking of a unity government with the Hamas Islamic militants joining Yasir Arafats Fatah faction. The Israeli Left believes a deal must be cut with Arafat while the Right warns that the government encourages terrorism the moment the word withdrawal is mentioned. Both are wrong.

The issue is a pragmatic one. PA Chairman Arafat and his secular, supposedly moderate Fatah faction (the Tanzim and Al-Aksa Brigades) are responsible for more terror attacks than the Hamas and Jihad, yet the Left continues to delude itself into believing they constitute legitimate partners in the peace process. As for the Right, the terrorists from all factions are working at full capacity and the present 58 terror warnings did not rise dramatically when PM Sharon announced his planned Gaza withdrawal. On the other hand, the elimination of Sheikh Yassin also had little effect.

The Hamas, in a power sharing position with Fatah, could prove advantageous to Israel. The façade of a secular, moderate PA would be shattered and all Israelis would be forced to face the reality that Hamas is not a radical fringe out group, but rather part of mainstream Palestinian thinking. The fact that they speak openly of Israels destruction is an advantage, since the international community will have no doubts as to Palestinian intents. Arafat and Fatah speak of peace in English and of Israels liquidation in Arabic. Better to explode the myth and leave no discrepancies.

Israelis, Americans and Europeans demand democratic reforms in the PA, yet none want Hamas to be elected. The average Palestinian knows the Fatah dominated PA is hopelessly corrupt, having siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in foreign monies. Far overdue, the last elections were held eight years ago. For domestic reasons, the scrupulously honest (at least for the time being) Hamas has gained political support.

The security situation will be neither better nor worse should the Hamas gain formal power. The IDF will have to continue pre-empting terror attacks. Domestically, Hamas will be called upon to deal with unemployment, infrastructure development, the acquisition and distribution of foreign aid, social welfare and the everyday administration of towns and villages. The Hamas will be tested in its everyday response to the needs of the Palestinians. Unlike Arafat, Fatah and the PLO, it has few western apologists and will be suspect of forming a terrorist state from the moment power sharing is implemented.

Should Palestinians continue to suffer after the Hamas gains official responsibilities, their rising star can be expected to fade. Similar to Iran, their full or partial Islamic regime may incur the wrath of the younger generation. As for the conflict with Israel, they will be forced into the dilemma of continuing the armed struggle and getting nowhere, or turn to a two state solution. If they are seen as no better than Fatah, they will endanger the support they received as the alternative.

In power, Hamas will threaten Israel no more than it does today. On the other hand, they just might have to prove responsibility.