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It is nothing short of madness that Israel can contemplate sponsoring gun imports into Gaza while scores of Kassams rain on the western Negev daily. Nevertheless, this is on the government's agenda.
The havoc in Gaza is evoked to try and justify such a move, along tortuous logical routes that can lead nowhere but to disaster. As with other proverbial roads paved with good intentions, this one, too, ostensibly is lined with nothing but laudable objectives. The primary aim is to keep Hamas from defeating Fatah outright and usurping absolute control of the Gaza Strip.
To that end the plan is to indirectly aid Fatah in the ongoing internecine strife by allowing it more weaponry and munitions. This would necessitate Israeli acquiescence for arms shipments to forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas via either Jordan or Egypt. Pro-Fatah combatants by the hundreds reportedly entered Gaza last week with Egyptian connivance.
Superficially, this makes sense. Your enemy's enemy is usually your friend. But not necessarily in this case. Hamas uses less duplicitous language and more radical Islamist rhetoric. But Fatah is hardly the paragon of coexistence and cooperation. Its terrorist record is long and heinous.
Fatah often tries to outdo Hamas in predations against Israeli civilians. The acid test in the PA is often who appears more belligerent against Jews, whose "resistance" is more effective. Moreover, weapons Israel provided Fatah as part of the Oslo Accords were eventually turned against Israelis with deadly consequences - most notably during the 2000 intifada. Past weapons supplies are admitted in retrospect by most objective observers to have been a grievous error.
Yet if the first error could at least have been excused as an attempt to foster new relationships, there is absolutely no excuse for repeating what already went so horribly wrong. The situation is dreadful enough; exacerbating it constitutes nothing less than an unimaginable folly.
It would likewise serve us to keep in mind that much of the weaponry Israel made available to Fatah, post-Oslo, eventually ended up in Hamas's hands. Allegiance among the Palestinians is extremely fluid. In many cases a member of Fatah moonlights in Hamas or has close relations in the Hamas camp.
Israel essentially opts to support the "good terrorists" versus the "bad terrorists," overlooking the reality that there is no acceptable terror under any guise. That Fatah ostensibly endorses the two-state formulation hardly means that many within its ranks do not yearn to annihilate Israel every bit as much as Hamas.
Abbas has frequently sounded a different, constructive tone, as have some of his loyalists. But he has never moved decisively to thwart terrorism against Israel. It is all too easily forgotten that Fatah has outdone even Hamas and Islamic Jihad in carrying out suicide bombings and attacks on Israelis in certain periods over recent years.
There are other ways to defeat Hamas than fortifying its rival terrorists. But the primary prerequisite is that Israel perform a mental switch away from expecting others to do the job for us.
Bitter experience has long since proved that Fatah cannot be relied upon to keep Hamas at bay - just as the Egyptians have proved their incapability or disinclination to foil the massive gunrunning into Gaza on which Hamas thrives. If Egypt now bewails Hamas's growing power, it has only itself to blame. It allowed the Rafah border to become Hamas's military lifeline. For Egypt to now seek to reinforce Fatah through the same conduit is to compound the problem, not solve it.
Egypt is rightly anxious about the establishment of an Iranian outpost on Cairo's doorstep in Gaza. But it has contributed mightily to that concern itself by failing to stop the arms flow.
What Israel needs to do now is look after its own interests. A town like Sderot cannot be abandoned. As Hamas brazenly threatens, Ashkelon will be next and who knows what will follow.
Hamas must be confronted wisely and effectively. Its armed men and those who encourage and dispatch them must be given no rest. When the extremists are confronted, the moderates will be strengthened.