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Hamas’ gain, Fatah’s loss

Israel’s new cease-fire agreement with Hamas may be good news in Sderot and Gaza City, but it’s bad news for the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah.

As if Fatah’s routing by Hamas in elections in January 2006 and in a violent coup in June 2007 weren’t enough, now Israel is signing agreements with Hamas while the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority is, once again, sidelined. And it doesn’t help that P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas is virtually ignored while Bashar Assad’s Syria gets all the attention in Israeli-Arab peace talks (this week, the possibility of Lebanon-Israel talks even made headlines).

On Thursday night, Fatah’s Kadura Fares talked to Israel’s Channel 2 TV about it, and on Friday Ha’aretz carried a column by Akiva Eldar on the subject. If Israel wants to strengthen the hands of the moderate Palestinian leaders, awarding a victory to Hamas extremists and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (the deposed P.A. prime minister) is not the way to go, the argument goes. Eldar writes:

Palestinian pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki said this week at a conference in Jerusalem that if elections had been held on the day the cease-fire agreement was finalized, Hamas would have won majority support in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Shikaki saw the cease-fire agreement as the reason for this…

For many months, Fatah mocked Hamas by arguing that the Qassam rockets, which Abu Mazen called “toys,” had no effect on Israel and were causing the people of Gaza unnecessary suffering. And here we discover that the “toys” are a strategic weapon. Instead of conducting the negotiations through Abu Mazen and letting him reap the accomplishment, or at least control the border crossings, Israel has turned Haniyeh into the hero of the hour. And that is not the end. Now that Hamas has shown that you can get recognition from Israel without recognizing it yourself, Haniyeh will free the prisoners that Fatah was unable to free; perhaps even their leader, Marwan Barghouti.

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