(photo credit: AP [file])
There is no doubt that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction would like to see an end to Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip.
But the last thing they want is to have Israel carry out the job for them.
A massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip or the assassination of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in response to Tuesday's pre-dawn rocket attack on the Zikim base could, in fact, undermine Abbas's status among his people.
Ironically, Hamas and Islamic Jihad stand to benefit from an IDF operation, which will certainly earn them the sympathy of most Palestinians.
Many Palestinians, after all, believe that the rocket attack was justified, especially since it was directed against a military target.
Abbas will be forced to join the rest of the Palestinian groups and Arab governments in strongly condemning Israel when and if the IDF invades the Gaza Strip.
Abbas's biggest fear is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will accuse him of collaborating with Israel.
Some Hamas spokesmen in the Gaza Strip claimed recently that Abbas and his Fatah lieutenants have been exerting pressure on Israel to help them in their effort to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
Undoubtedly, the Hamas spokesmen will repeat these allegations as soon as the IDF enters the Gaza Strip or assassinates their leaders.
"We have appealed to Israel to refrain from a major military operation in the Gaza Strip," a top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post. "We are concerned that such an operation would play into the hands of Hamas and their allies and undermine our efforts to revive the peace process with Israel."
The official said that scenes of IDF tanks in the Gaza Strip and civilian casualties being ferried away in ambulances would only harm Abbas's standing among his people. He also warned that an Israeli offensive would have a "negative impact" on next fall's US-sponsored Middle East peace conference.
However, the PA official said that Abbas would not be opposed to pinpoint strikes against those responsible for the rocket attacks. "The president has repeatedly warned against the firing of rockets at Israel," he noted. "These attacks, besides being ineffective, provide Israel with an excuse to step up its military operations against our people."
The biggest fear among Abbas's aides in Ramallah is that a massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip would only increase Hamas's popularity on the Palestinian street. "They [Hamas] will be seen as victims of Israeli aggression," said one aide. "On the other hand, we will be seen as being on the wrong side, particularly in the wake of this week's successful meeting between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert."