Official: 'Cease-fire would be victory for Hamas'

Official: Agreement without stopping weapons flow would come at the expense of PA gov't in West Bank.

A cease-fire that does not include the prevention of the transfer of weapons to the Gaza Strip will be "a major strategic victory" for Hamas and will only serve to strengthen its rule there at the expense of the Fatah-led government in the West Bank, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday. "A cease-fire, which is the easy way out, will ensure us of several months of quiet but will also entrench the Hamas state in Gaza, which will become more and more dependent on the Iranians," the senior official said in a briefing for foreign journalists in Jerusalem. He added that such a cease-fire would also serve as a serious setback for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and would only serve to weaken him further. Israel has long warned that Hamas would use any cease-fire to regroup and rearm. The Israeli official said that although Israeli economic and military pressure had succeeded in bringing about a perceptible decline in Hamas's popularity in the Gaza Strip, it had not served to boost the rival Fatah faction in the West Bank. "Hamas is coming to the cease-fire on its knees as a results of our pressures," he said. Nevertheless, the official cautioned against "overplaying our hand," noting that recent moves, including an attempt to enforce a total blockade of supplies and materials into Gaza as well as a military incursion that left 120 Palestinians dead - including dozens of civilians - had backfired. He added that in the long run, the chances of a collapse of the Hamas-run government in Gaza were "not high," noting that no force short of Israel could unseat Hamas from Gaza, and that Israel was unlikely to do so. "Unless someone intervenes forcefully, Hamas will continue to run Gaza," he said. The official noted that "hundreds" of Palestinians were freely crossing through Gaza's porous border with Egypt to receive training from Iran, and that all the smuggling of armaments into the Gaza Strip came through areas controlled by Egypt. "The Egyptians, to put it mildly, are not successfully preventing the supply and rearming of Hamas," he said. He noted that security control of the Rafah crossing, which is now under Hamas control, had been a failure since Israel's pullout from Gaza even when the site was monitored by European countries. He added that video feeds transferred to Israel as part of the now defunct border accord always came in too late. "This was an ineffectual system since anybody who wanted could cross, and people who were problematic were already gone by the time the video feed came through," he said.