Israel has refused to free a
1,500, or even a thousand, Palestinians from jail, in return for the release of
an Israeli soldier held (for two years) by Hamas. Israel has offered to release
450 Palestinians (and mostly low level offenders, not the killers and terrorist
leaders Hamas wants). Thus negotiations with Hamas are deadlocked. Meanwhile,
the Israelis have been warning their citizens to beware visiting nations with
large Moslem populations, because Hezbollah has begun a large scale effort to
kill or kidnap Israelis overseas, this being the easiest way to strike at
Israel (at least according to Hezbollah thinking.)
Hamas is in
a downward spiral. Opinion polls show that Hamas would receive only 29 percent
of the vote if elections were held today, versus 43 percent for Fatah. The
problem is that the economic problems in Gaza (largely the result of Hamas
insisting that its main goal is the destruction of Israel) have changed attitudes
towards Hamas (but not towards Israel, which most Palestinians still want
destroyed, or at least hurt in a big way.) The hatred of Israel by Palestinians
appears to be implacable, and unlikely to change any time soon. There is
growing armed opposition to Hamas in Gaza, largely from al Qaeda affiliated groups.
But this opposition is not strong enough to really threaten Hamas control. The
Hamas reaction solution to its problems has been to build a police state in
Gaza. This is not popular, but Hamas has sufficient popular support (at least a
third of the 1.5 million population) to make this work. Egypt is concerned that
Hamas will provide a base for Islamic terrorists, and their attacks into Egypt.
A solution being talked up in Egypt is the takeover and annexation of Gaza.
Israel would have to agree to this, and is apparently giving serious
consideration to the idea. That has resurrected the old proposal that the West
Bank be given back to Jordan (which used to control it, but give up its claims
after the Palestinians decided they were a separate people four decades ago).
Jordan already has many Palestinians, who comprise over half their population.
Jordan has never been keen on acquiring more Palestinian citizens (the royal
family that rules Jordan is Bedouin, and relies on the Bedouin minority to stay
Israel has made it very difficult for Palestinians to travel between the West
Bank and Gaza. Israeli counter-terror operations in the West Bank are as active
as ever, keeping the terrorists neutralized (as they have been for several
supplied Fatah with several thousand assault rifles and pistols, as well as
vehicles (armored and unarmored.) Israel has also released about a thousand
West Bank residents from jail. Most of these were being held for low level
offenses, but the gesture has made Fatah more popular.