Israel can't avoid Hamas forever, officer tells 'Post'

While Hamas does not plan to dismantle its armed wing and a third intifada is on the horizon, Israel will eventually have to backtrack from its refusal to deal with a Palestinian Authority it controls, a senior Civil Administration officer told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Hamas, he said, would try and cut off all economic ties with Israel following the formation of a new PA government by the end of the month to try to prove to the Palestinian people that it could stand on its own two feet. In the end, however, "the reality on the ground will win," the officer predicted. "It will in the end dictate to both sides how to act and force them to become more pragmatic toward one another." Israel's current plan, defense officials said Thursday, was to isolate Hamas and the PA. Following the upcoming elections, the IDF planned to cut off most economic ties with the PA, including fuel supplies. Electricity and water would continue to flow from Israel into the PA as would humanitarian goods. Palestinians will also be allowed into Israel for medical treatment. Israel, the officer said, was concerned with the possibility that Hamas would receive control over a large portion of the PA security forces. While PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to hold on to all of the security apparatuses, the officer predicted Hamas would in the end gain control of the Preventive Security Service, made up of several thousand armed and military-trained men. "Abbas will try to retain control of the security branches, but he won't succeed," he said. Once Hamas obtained control over the Preventive Security Service, Israel could find itself facing a semi-institutionalized Hamas army of 20,000 soldiers. While he said Hamas would not use the agency in a direct war against the IDF, it could use it to launch terror attacks in a third Intifada. While Hamas was not currently directly involved in terror attacks, he said it did not plan on disarming its military branch even if it reached a long-term cease-fire with Israel. "They believe that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a result of their terror activity," he said. "Terrorism sometimes works in their best interest." But even though a diplomatic solution with Hamas was not currently on the table, its leaders, he said, believed Israel would eventually open a direct line of communication with the new PA government. "A little over a month has gone by since the elections and the international front against Hamas is beginning to crumble," he said. "The Palestinians even believe that Israel will back down from its tough stance, as it already did when it transferred $250 million in taxes to the PA right after the elections." The officer also expressed concern that Abbas might decide to resign following the formation of a new Hamas-run government. The army, he said, had already noticed "cracks" in the PA chairman's authority and stature. "He might realize that with the Hamas in power he will be powerless and will not be able to push a diplomatic resolution forward," he said. "That might just push him over the edge."