Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hamas hints at taking over the West Bank

In yet another little-reported story, Hamas on Thursday made a slightly oblique threat to the PA. From Ma'an:
Hamas refused to rule out the option of taking control of the West Bank if Fatah do not change their policies towards Hamas activists in the area. The statement was made in a press release by Sami Abu Zuhri, the official Hamas spokesperson in the West Bank on Thursday.

Abu Zuhri said "the current situation in the West Bank is similar to that in the Gaza Strip before Hamas took control. Security forces are committing crimes in their interrogation and torture centers."

"We remind them [Fatah]," he continued, "that they planted thorns and they will harvest regret."

Hamas have been accused by Fatah of the creation of an executive to carry out a coup in the West Bank similar to the one in the Gaza Strip. They have previously denied any plans to overthrow the caretaker government in the West bank, and while this falls short of a declaration of such an intention, it will be seen as a stepping up of the rhetoric around this issue.
I've noted before that Hamas' support in the West Bank is extensive and Fatah's is not nearly as strong as wishful thinkers in the West assume:
In the local PA elections of 2005, before the Hamas victory in the legislative elections, Hamas won the majority of seats in Nablus (73% of the vote to Fatah's 13%) , Al-Bireh (72% of the vote) and Jenin (winning eight seats to Fatah's four.) Fatah didn't even win a majority in Ramallah; although it outpolled Hamas there it ended up tied with the Popular Front.
This is yet another elephant in the room that the international community chooses to ignore. While Hamas is probably not in a position to take over the West Bank today, chances are very good that in the aftermath of any Israeli withdrawal from territory for "peace" that Hamas would move into the vacuum before Fatah even realizes it. Hamas is better organized and has a stronger ideology than Fatah, and its strength attracts recruits. Fatahs' major security accomplishment has been a crackdown on car thieves.

In Gaza, Fatah didn't just lose - it folded rather than seriously challenge Hamas. What objective reasons can anyone bring to say that this couldn't or wouldn't happen in the West Bank? The hundreds of millions of dollars that poured into the PA coffers for "security" were completely wasted in Gaza, and chances are very good that they are being equally wasted in the West Bank, while Hamas is methodically increasing its budget, ties to Iran, operational efficiency and firepower.

And as usual, the West as well as Israeli liberals choose to ignore the lessons of last year's coup and barrel forth with an exact repeat of the mistakes of Gaza.