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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

'Hamas win would destroy PA'

Israel Matzav

'Hamas win would destroy PA'

Israel's security forces are issuing dire warnings of the consequences of the (expected) Hamas win in the coming 'Palestinian elections' (/oxymoron) (if they are held):

The security establishment painted a grim picture of the aftermath of the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections, warning that a strong Hamas victory would lead to the total destruction of the Palestinian Authority, the only body Israel has been able to negotiate with. Security officials warned that the new situation will have severe repercussions on future dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.

Describing the "no-win situation" Israel will be forced to reckon with, security officials declared that a significant Hamas win may spur Fatah factions to stir up trouble and resort to violence, perceiving the move as the only way to serve its interests and reach Hamas's level of popularity. "Everything achieved by Israel and the PA in the past will be lost," a security official said Tuesday.

If PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decides on the other hand to postpone the elections at the last minute, or resign, the decision could spur Hamas to renew its violence against Israel.

"All in all, the elections will not pass quietly," an official said.

Rivalry and tension surround the different Fatah factions vying to be elected. A Hamas victory means there will be no mutual base for Israel to enter any kind of dialogue, said the officials, adding that no one in Hamas - even Ismail Haniya, considered a pragmatist - would agree to recognize the State of Israel or put terror aside for the sake of entering a dialogue. Israel would have no proper Palestinian leadership to address.

"The future looks bleak. It is clear that, whatever the outcome, Israel will be faced with an upsurge in violence and a breakdown in the situation," an official said.

"No matter how you look at it, nothing good will come out of the situation. It is a shame that the US is unable to understand the situation and the new reality Israel will be faced with. It is possible that we will witness the last democratic elections to take place in the PA," one of the officials said. [I'm not sure what they think the US can do about this. Certainly not much. CiJ]

The officials were unwilling to divulge how the situation would affect the Gaza terminal crossings or other projects and agreements reached between Israel and the PA in the past.

According to estimates that have reached the security establishment, officials assess that Abbas will postpone the elections at the last minute in an attempt to avoid confronting an almost certain Hamas victory. Recent reports that reached the security establishment portray Abbas as a weak soul incapable of taking charge of the situation. The aides that surround Abbas are pegging their hopes on his failure and perceive him as a man unable to cope with the internal pressures he is confronted with. Security officials did not rule out the possibility that Abbas may resign.

Abbas's biggest mistake, they said, was the strategic decision not to confront Hamas, because that enabled Hamas to continue with its ongoing activities uninterrupted. Abbas's weakness can be seen in his failure to uphold any of the agreements he signed with Israel. "In West Bank cities where the PA received security control he failed to disarm fugitives and reign in extremists," an official said.

The chaos and lawlessness that rage through the PA-controlled areas continues without any real attempts by the PA leadership to halt the situation and restore law and order, the officials added.

Update (2:51 PM): The New York Times reports this morning that even the 'Palestinians' are concerned that the elections will result in a civil war in Gaza.

... "If civil war starts, it will last a long time and cost thousands of lives," said Sameeh Nasser, a police officer riding through Gaza City's chaotic streets in a light-blue Peugeot patrol car.

The densely populated, heavily armed territory is taut with frustration from decades of political injustices, restricted freedoms, stunted economic development and the violent culture of its militias and their suicide bombers. Gaza threatens to turn on itself now that Israel has withdrawn.

"We can't deny that there is real fear that something might happen," said the Hamas campaign director for Gaza, Naji Alserhi. He said Hamas had warned the Palestinian Authority that "people will take the law into their own hands" if the elections were postponed.

Some people even expressed open nostalgia for the days before the 1993 Oslo accords, when Israel still occupied the territory and Palestinians were freer to travel across the country. More than 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza worked in Israel before the agreements, and thousands were still commuting through the fortresslike border crossings when Israel withdrew in September. Few do so these days because the crossings are frequently closed.


Many Fatah supporters say they will vote for Hamas to send their own faction a message that it needs to reform or lose power. But that is a dangerous game, others warn, because if Hamas wins big, violence is likely to follow.

Eyad el-Sarraj, a psychiatrist who is an activist in Gaza, said: "If Hamas wins, do you think the security forces of these guys will leave their posts? Do you think the leaders will give up their offices, that the masses of people who have jobs from Fatah will give up their livelihoods? The big boys with money will disappear, the rest will fight."

Feuding Palestinian clans have already turned parts of the north and the south of Gaza into occasional war zones, and there is widespread pessimism about whether the territory's political future will be decided with ballots or bullets.

On a sandy hilltop near the northern Gaza border, which was once used to launch rockets into Israel, Ahmed Fayez, a young Palestinian soldier posted to help deter more attacks on Israel said he would soon be reassigned to keeping peace inside the territory's borders. "There won't be elections," Mr. Fayez predicted. "They'll fight."

Many members of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades say that if Hamas wins a substantial share of the vote, more than 30 percent, there could be fighting. The Palestinian Authority's Interior Ministry spokesman in Gaza, Tawfik Abu Khousa, said the government had tried to convince the factions to store their weapons in order to keep them off the street and allow some measure of control, but all refused.

"The situation is getting worse and worse and we are really worried about civil war," he said, adding that there had already been several threats to kidnap European election monitors in Gaza and the West Bank.

The number of weapons on the streets is estimated to be at least triple that in the hands of the Palestinian police, which has only one gun for every 20 officers. [And whose fault is that? Who let the terrorists smuggle in weapons? CiJ]

"It affects our ability to operate," said Brig. Gen. Omar Moussa, at the Gaza police headquarters. He said three police officers had been killed since Israel pulled out of Gaza.

While all weapons not in official hands are illegal, the police are unable to seize them because they are outgunned. Palestinian security forces regularly wear masks during operations, but are otherwise afraid to confront militia members for fear of reprisals against their families.


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