Israel: Pugnacious Palestinians in Peril of Partition

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June 14, 2006: Hamas and Fatah are at war, with daily violence between rival gangs of gunmen. The fighting includes arson, with rival partisans burning down each others buildings. Fatah gunmen have also attacked and set fire to the Palestinian Parliament building, which Hamas controls. In the past month, growing violence between Palestinians has caused over a hundred casualties. It's believed that the assassination of a senior Fatah or Hamas leader could trigger all out war. If that happened, Hamas is stronger in Gaza, while Fatah is stronger in the West Bank. A Palestinian civil war could quickly end up with a Hamas controlled Gaza, and a Fatah controlled West Bank. Fatah sees its ultimate weapon as money. Since Hamas took power in March, over a hundred million dollars a month in foreign aid, and taxes collected by Israel, has been cut off. The 167,000 unpaid Palestinian Authority employees are mostly pro-Fatah. A civil war could quickly result in Fatah declaring itself in charge in West Bank, and negotiating to get the money turned back on. That would leave Hamas still broke, desperate and heavily armed in Gaza.

Hamas also has some serious internal problems. One faction wants to end all the money problems by offering Israel a 50 year truce, and recognition, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. Sounds nice in theory, but Israeli hard liners are not going to give up Jerusalem. The fifty year truce is attractive to Hamas because they believe time is on their side, and that in half a century, Arabs will be an even larger, and more powerful, part of the Israeli electorate. Hamas cannot, without offending most of its membership, give up its stated goal of destroying Israel. But even the fifty year truce angle offends the Hamas hardliners, who have been urging a resumption of the terror campaign against Israel. The hardliners have forgotten why Hamas went along with the truce in the first place. It was because Israel had defeated the Palestinian terrorist campaign, and that situation hasn't changed. Hamas terrorists believe they can get something going with continued rocket attacks on southern Israel, especially the towns within range of their home made rockets, Ashkelon and Sderot. The rockets are not very accurate, but for every 30-40 rockets fired, an Israeli is wounded or killed. Politically, Israel cannot ignore the rocket campaign.

June 13, 2006: An Israeli missile attack in Gaza killed two terrorists on their way to launch rockets, but another explosion shortly thereafter, killed nine civilians. The second explosion was probably a terrorist device, but the Palestinians continue to blame it on Israel. In a similar vein, an Israeli investigation of the explosion on a Gaza beach last week concluded that it was not an Israeli artillery shell landing and exploding that caused the damage. The explosion was from a bomb that was already there, and the only ones with regular access to the beach were Palestinian terrorists. The explosion was most likely caused by a landmine planted in an attempt kill Israeli naval commandoes that sometimes use that beach. Blowing up your own people in order to score a media "victory" is also nothing new. Palestinians have been using such disinformation tactics for decades, and the same tactics were used (and exposed) in the Balkans during the 1990s. Israel UAVs have caught some of these deceptions on camera, and released the videos. The Gaza beach explosion appears to have been used to give Hamas a reason for ending the 16 month truce with Israel.

 

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