Harari: Gaza chaos could spread to Israel

Former IDF advisor suggests taking a chance on talks with Hamas.

funeral hamas gaza 88 (photo credit:)
funeral hamas gaza 88
(photo credit: )
Painting a picture of chaos and corruption, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari warned Tuesday that the Palestinian lawlessness and violence now associated with Gaza was spreading to the West Bank and may soon engulf Israel. With Palestinian and Israeli elections being held soon and the end of the calm period declared by Palestinian terrorist groups, Harari, an expert on Palestinian affairs at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya's International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, predicted that "2006 will be very unstable." After the Palestinian elections, he said, "all the energy that was contained [during the cease-fire] may explode." If internal Palestinian violence similar to that of Gaza emerges in the West Bank after the Palestinian elections, the lack of a strong PA security force obeying one chain of command would likely mean attacks on Israel, he said. Add to that what appears to be the impending bankruptcy of the Palestinian Authority and "the situation might deteriorate very fast," Harari said. Harari predicted a third, "ballistic" intifada in such an event, characterized by more rocket fire and fewer suicide bombers due to the separation fence and better intelligence. In order to minimize Israeli casualties in that scenario, he said, "Israel should finish the fence." Harari, a former adviser to the IDF on Palestinian affairs who served in the territories for 20 years, spoke to the foreign media, characterizing Hamas's rise in popularity as a carefully orchestrated strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region. Carried out over the last two decades, this strategy began with grassroots activism, climbing to the university level in the 1990s and capturing political power last year. The political "earthquake" the Muslim Brotherhood was attempting would be complete not with the strong showing expected by Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, he said, but with the capturing of the chairmanship. However, it is "better to have the Muslim Brotherhood inside [the political system] than outside," Harari said. "That's what torpedoed Oslo; we signed an agreement with people who never represented half of the Palestinian people." Israel has to "take a chance" and try to deal with Hamas, he said. "At the end of the day, if we want to sign something with Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas], it's not worth the price of the paper we sign" unless Hamas is part of the government. A broader question, Harari said, was whether a Muslim movement like Hamas "could be more flexible and moderate - not just in daily life, which they have shown they can be- but in their ideology." It was not clear, he said, whether recent statements coming from senior Hamas figures talking about the possibility of recognizing Israel was the result of electioneering or a fundamental change in the group's philosophy derived from its political success. "Hamas knows most Palestinians do not want more fighting," he said. But the organization is not "ready to give up weapons and disarm its military wing."