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Monday, August 04, 2008

The Hamas threat to the West Bank - and Israel

We mentioned last week that a Hamas spokesman made an oblique threat that Hamas would take over the West Bank just as they did Gaza. It turns out that on the same day, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar made the threat a little more explicit:
In a sign of reassurance to the residents of the West Bank who are facing a joint campaign by the occupation forces and the Palestinian [National] Authority of Mahmud Abbas. Al-Zahhar said: "We tell our oppressed people in Ramallah that the sun of freedom has shone in the Gaza Strip and will shine on them in Ramallah, God willing."

Addressing the senior officials of the PNA in Ramallah, Al-Zahhar said: "Those who think that by oppression and imprisonment they can put off the candle of freedom which has been lit in Gaza are entertaining illusions. Those who did not read the Gaza history, let them read it."

He added: "Those who have sought negotiations and peace with the Zionist occupation are accusing us of resorting to the calm. Calm is a weapon in our hands, not a sword brandished on our necks." He said that the Al-Qassam Brigades continue to arm themselves, to manufacture arms, to train and to prepare themselves to be ready for self-defence."
Others have started noticing something we've been saying for years, that Hamas has far more power in the West Bank than is generally believed.

From Maariv (Daily Alert translation):
According to the IDF General Staff, the IDF is the only force preventing a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. The talks between Israel and the PA are purely cosmetic, since Israel's negotiating partner does not represent any real political force.

Anyone who is counting on Fatah to reform itself in order to serve as a counterweight to Hamas in the West Bank is fooling himself.

If Israel frees Hamas' West Bank political leadership - which was arrested two years ago in the wake of the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit - in a prisoner exchange for Shalit, this will only help Hamas to take over of the West Bank.
From JCPA (also translated by Daily Alert):
With the most recent fighting, Hamas has ended the role of Fatah in Gaza and is patiently organizing toward the next stage, which includes the takeover the West Bank.

This is to occur after the completion of a prisoner-exchange deal for Gilad Shalit, in which key Hamas cadres and parliament members will be released from jail and return to the West Bank.
What is striking is that of all the players in the Arab/Israeli conflict, Hamas and Hezbollah (as Iranian proxies) seem to be the only ones with real plans, strategies and the ability to follow through. The current Israeli government's strategy is more based on wishful thinking plus some IDF contingency plans, and the PA has long ago become a joke.

Hamas, though, knows what it wants: it already replaced Gaza with an Islamic state, and it is mopping up any leftover opposition. It plans to take over the West Bank as well.

If, G-d forbid, Israel abandons large areas of the West Bank to Hamas, it really will become another Gaza. Anything Israel does to defend itself from the inevitable rockets will involve civilian deaths. Giving the Palestinian Arabs a state wouldn't slow Hamas down - on the contrary, it would accelerate Hamas' reaching its goals. Hamas' prestige will grow and affect Jordan as well as Egypt, and Israel will literally be surrounded by Iranian proxies.

Liberals scoff that Israel doesn't face a real existential threat from what are dismissively described as a few kids with stones, but the real threat is what I've described - at least two Iranian proxy armies on Israel's doorstep from the south, east and north.

And the only thing that can stop this sequence of events is Israeli "occupation," which, from decades of propaganda, is regarded as evil incarnate.

Israel has to retake the initiative on stopping this from happening. It can no longer afford to wait and then react; it has to change the narrative back to what it used to be: where every terror attack would be retaliated automatically, immediately and harshly; where pre-emption was regarded as a necessity and not evil, where world opinion was not considered as important as Israeli lives, where the enemy would have to guess how Israel would react rather than push Israel into a corner with no choices. To do that requires real leadership and vision, something that has been sorely lacking in recent years.