Israel is emboldening Hamas, Palestinians warn

Abbas, the analysts said, is also convinced that Israel and the US are seeking to undermine his regime in the West Bank “because they don’t want a Palestinian peace partner.”

HAMAS MEMBERS in Gaza. (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority is finding it hard to control its fury in the wake of reports Israel and Hamas are close to finalizing a long-term ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian political analysts said sarcastically on Tuesday that the PA’s apoplectic reaction to the purported deal resembles that of a betrayed spouse. The Israeli government’s actions, they added, indicate that it prefers Hamas over the PA.
According to the analysts, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is convinced the Israeli government and US President Donald Trump’s administration are seeking to establish a Hamas-led mini Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas, the analysts said, is also convinced that Israel and the US are seeking to undermine his regime in the West Bank “because they don’t want a Palestinian peace partner.”
“Weakening the PA does not serve Israeli interests,” said Nablus-based political analyst Omar al-Masri. “Hamas has become Israel’s mistress.”
Referring to the Israeli security cabinet’s decision earlier this week to deduct NIS 150 million from the tax funds that Israel transfers each month to the PA – in response to the PA’s payouts to security prisoners and families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis – Masri pointed out the move coincided with reports Israel was considering a series of measures to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
“The Israeli government is punishing the PA while at the same time offering goodwill gestures to Hamas,” Masri said. “By doing so, Israel is sending a message to the Palestinians that those who conduct security coordination with Israel and are opposed to terrorism are its enemies, while those who fire rockets at Israel are rewarded.”
Fuad Mansour, another Palestinian political analyst, said Israel will “regret its policy of punishing Palestinians who are committed to the two-state solution, while emboldening those who don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist.”
The PA leadership, the analyst noted, has long been facing sharp criticism from Hamas and other Palestinians for its ongoing security coordination with the Israeli security services in the West Bank.
“The feeling in Ramallah is that the Israeli government and the Trump administration are waging war on the PA,” he said. “Are they trying to weaken or bring about the collapse of the PA? If the PA collapses, we will return to the pre-Oslo era, when Israel was running the day-to-day affairs of the Palestinians. Does Israel want to go back to the days when it was running Palestinian schools, hospitals and municipalities?”
PA officials claim that Israel and the Trump administration are interested in keeping Hamas in power to prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines. The officials believe Hamas has reached the conclusion that a US-backed long-term ceasefire deal with Israel is the best “insurance policy” for maintaining its rule over the Gaza Strip.
“Israeli and US policies and decisions are emboldening Palestinian extremists at the cost of the moderates,” a senior adviser to Abbas told The Jerusalem Post. “In the short term, this may serve the interests of the Israeli government and the Trump administration, which aim to consolidate the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the long term, however, the Israelis and Americans will discover that undermining President Abbas and the PA was a grave mistake.”
Israel “has not learned from its past mistakes,” a veteran PLO official told the Post. “In the late 1980s, Israel believed that the emergence of Hamas would serve as a counterbalance to the PLO and Fatah. In one of his conversations with [former PLO leader] Yasser Arafat, [former prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin admitted that Israel made a mistake by not preventing the establishment of Hamas when the Israelis were still in control of the Gaza Strip.”
According to the official, Israel again made a “mistake” when it refused to coordinate its 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip with the PA.
“The unilateral withdrawal allowed Hamas to take credit for expelling the Jews from the Gaza Strip through rockets and suicide bombings,” he said. “It was no surprise that Hamas won the [Palestinian] parliamentary election a few months later. Then Israel sent a message to the Palestinians to the effect that if you negotiate with Israel you don’t get anything, but if you launch armed attacks you get everything. Nowadays, we see Israel repeating the same mistake through its dealings with Hamas.”
Abbas’s political rivals, meanwhile, are seeking to cash in on the Israeli and US measures against the PA. In addition to condemning Israel and the US for “committing acts of aggression and crimes against the Palestinian people,” these rivals, including Hamas, are scoffing at Abbas for his “commitment” to nonviolent resistance and security coordination with Israel.
Furthermore, they are telling Palestinians that Israel has a long history of abandoning those who help it.
If and when the Palestinian general elections are held, Abbas will find it hard under the current circumstances to explain to the Palestinian public why he hasn’t responded to the Israeli and US measures by at least renouncing the agreements or suspending the security coordination with Israel. Hamas, on the other hand, will have no problem persuading Palestinians why they need to vote for a movement whose covenant states that “there is no solution for the Palestinian issue except through Jihad [holy war].”