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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Hamas' current strategy

Today we have an object lesson in how Hamas shoots rockets into Israel while pretending to maintain a cease-fire, and it provides a glimpse into Hamas' strategy to land on its feet after Cast Lead.

Unlike Fatah, Hamas tries to project an aura of trustworthiness. Hamas supporters point out that Hamas didn't take any responsibility for rockets fired during the last month of the six month "lull," for example; they only started to claim to shoot rockets after the deadline had passed.

Likewise, all rockets fired into Israel since the last "ceasefire" have either not been claimed or claimed by small, "rogue" groups that Hamas can pretend are acting on their own. It would be hard for Hamas supporters to believe that the PRC or Islamic Jihad - whom Hamas obviously coordinated fighting with during January - are acting on their own in shooting rockets, so we are seeing claims instead by the "Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades" or similar, seemingly tiny groups.

Today, there were three rockets and four mortars shot into Israel, and they were claimed by the "Yasser Arafat Brigades" of Fatah. Curiously, this claim was send not to Fatah media outlets, but to Palestine Today, which is aligned with Islamic Jihad.

An intriguing report in WorldNetDaily from 2007 quotes Israeli sources as saying that Hamas had infiltrated these very same Yasser Arafat Brigades.

While this is slightly tenuous evidence, it can be bolstered by understanding the timing. Hamas is supposedly set to agree to a one-year ceasefire with Israel starting Thursday. It needs to appear as if it is a credible partner for such a deal - increasing its prestige - but it also needs to shore up its base of terrorists who want to make it appear as if Israel lost the war by not having stopped rockets. These rockets, laundered through these third party groups, make Israel appear weak to the Arab world while a successful "cease fire" deal - where these tiny groups' rockets magically disappear, as they did for a few months during the last lull - will make Hamas appear strong to the West.

Simultaneously, Hamas is pushing to replace the PLO with its own more extreme leadership for Palestinian Arabs outside of Gaza, making an end-run around the increasingly weak PA.

Hamas is banking that it can continue to smuggle weapons with impunity under whomever is guarding Rafah, especially the PA. It is also positioning itself to be the primary provider of aid in Gaza after the war, because whoever controls the aid - and the money - controls Gaza.

Hamas is also calculating that it can brush off the criticism that the Arab world hurled at it and can end up stronger after Cast Lead than it was before, both to the more sympathetic Arab countries of Syria and Qatar as well as to Europe and the US. Everything it is doing is aimed in that direction, and, as usual, the PA is completely outmaneuvered.

Apparently, so is much of the West.

Almost certainly Iran is behind these machinations, and if the West doesn't wake up, we will be caught flatfooted again.