More of the Same (Extract)

Extract of an article in Issue 26, April 14, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Over the past year, a new reality has taken hold in the West Bank. Ever since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip last June, and over the months of clashes in the south, Israeli security forces have actually achieved fairly impressive results on the other Palestinian front. In contrast to the sometimes hesitant approach in combating the Qassam menace, the government has taken pains to provide the IDF and the Shin Bet with clearer guidelines in their efforts to smash the terrorist infrastructures in those regions that are in principle under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his associates complain frequently about Israel's ongoing operations all over the West Bank, they too enjoy the fruits of these energetic and systematic actions against Hamas and its allies. Furthermore, recent efforts by PA security forces to restrict Hamas capabilities in the final analysis indeed supplement the Israeli operations. Hamas is still the most potent political force in the West Bank. If Israel were to stop its preventive activities and refrain from sending forces into Palestinian cities and towns in "Area A" - where the PA bears responsibility for security - Hamas would in all likelihood gradually take control there. The PA is incapable of filling the void that would ensue, with Abu Mazen's Fatah movement practically non-functional, although it still clings to the key government positions. Hamas is unable to maintain an efficient centralized organization and has had to spread its activities among numerous associations, institutions and individuals, which do not necessarily coordinate their operations. Nevertheless, Hamas is clearly preferred by the Palestinian public, and enjoys a great advantage over Fatah in terms of maneuverability and ability to mobilize the masses. The roundups that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been carrying out have sent most of the West Bank Hamas leadership to jail, even though Abu Mazen, for reasons of his own, has chosen to leave the control over numerous municipal and village councils and religious institutions in their hands. Nor is he really taking any action against the charity organizations and religious institutions, which in theory belong to the PA but were long ago taken over by Hamas loyalists. The PA has also not touched the wide-ranging network of economic institutions built up by Hamas over the years, ranging from rental apartments to bakeries, dairies and other business ventures, whose profits are used to fund the movement's activities. Only in the last two months has Israel begun to take action against Hamas' fiscal infrastructure, which ranges from money-changing offices to stores that the organization rents out to merchants. In this context, there have been significant achievements in the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure. Even after the horrific terrorist attacks at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem and at a Dimona shopping center, we can say with a great degree of certainty that the "production lines" of suicide bombers, rockets and explosive devices no longer exist in the West Bank. This doesn't mean that the desire to use the West Bank as a base for terror attacks has disappeared altogether, but in the new situation such attacks as occur are isolated incidents, local initiatives by small cells, and not the operations of an active terrorist underground. Extract of an article in Issue 26, April 14, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.