Hamas Gaining Political Power
The Palestinian terror group Hamas, linked to Iran, is causing concern in the Middle East—not only for its dramatic and lethal suicide attacks against Israelis but for its political actions. And the concern is not just in the Israeli camp—the Palestinian Authority (pa) is also worried.
The concern revolves around the surge in popular support for Hamas, as reflected in its success in the last round of Palestinian local elections. The election results give an indication of political gains—and possible parliamentary control—to come.
In the May 5 elections, Hamas won control of the biggest population centers up for grabs in Gaza and the West Bank. This was the third round of elections in recent months, all of which have seen huge gains for Hamas.
Indications are Hamas will also do well in the next round of local elections scheduled for July or August—around the same time as the even more significant Palestinian parliamentary elections.
If Hamas wins control of parliament, or even a significant number of the seats, Israel will be faced with the prospect of negotiating with terrorists to further the “peace process.” This would also put a mortal enemy of Israel in power right next door.
The threat of Hamas gaining control of the Palestinian Legislative Council has caused alarm—and further division—in the Israeli government, particularly in light of its plan to withdraw troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank in August.
Some Israelis say it is wrongheaded to abandon these areas just as Hamas is gaining ground. Israel is in a Catch-22: If it proceeds with the withdrawal, Hamas will see this as a victory. If the withdrawal is delayed, Hamas will use this as an excuse for more attacks. “If they want to go, let them go,” said one top Hamas leader. “If they stay, we will continue our resistance. We respect the truce, but who said that we are throwing away our weapons?” (International Herald Tribune, May 7). Hamas wins either way.
The Fatah-dominated pa is also worried at the prospect of losing power to Hamas and is looking to postpone the July 17 vote until November (Associated Press, May 25).
Once again, however, Hamas holds the better hand. If Palestinian legislative elections are postponed, it has threatened to resume violence against Israel, which would only undermine pa President Mahmoud Abbas’s position. And delayed elections are certainly no guarantee that Hamas’s popularity will wane.
Hamas’s popularity results from a combination of its provision of food, money and community services—funded by its sponsors Hezbollah, Iran and Syria—for the Palestinian people (who were greatly deprived under the inept rule of Yasser Arafat), and its suicide campaign against Israelis over recent years.
This combination of “good deeds” and violence against Israel optimizes Hamas’s popularity—a perfect formula exploited by many a terrorist group: Give the people money, housing and community services, unite them against a common enemy, and they will support you. Witness Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon, or the ira‘s in Northern Ireland.
It seems, however, that some in the West are fooled by these tactics. In a shocking statement in April, Scott McClellan, spokesman for the U.S. president, referred to members of Hamas who had already gained political positions as “business professionals”—“not terrorists.”
There is no doubt of the weight Hamas already carries in the Palestinian territories. As an example, in May, immediately after ordering security forces to use an “iron fist” in containing Palestinian militants, Abbas turned around and, upon pressure from Hamas, released two Hamas prisoners who had been detained for being armed with rockets that they had planned to launch against Israeli targets (Stratfor, May 3). If Hamas can change the pa president’s mind just like that even now, what will it be able to do once it has official political status, with a presence in the Palestinian parliament?
Remember, Hamas—which seeks an Islamic state similar to Iran—has as its goal the obliteration of Israel. “Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction but has indicated it is willing to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as an interim step” (Associated Press, March 13; emphasis ours). This is the entity gaining popularity and power in the midst of Israel.
Despite its intentions, however, Hamas will not, ultimately, succeed in its objective to destroy the land of the Jews, though it will severely weaken them. Israel’s downfall will come from a different direction. Read our March-April 2004 article “The Enemies of Jerusalem” to find out Israel’s greatest danger.