Hamas Hopes for West Bank
Hamas will take over the West Bank if Israel pulls out of it, a senior Hamas leader said in early November.
“Israel says the party in Ramallah [speaking of Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority] serves Israel,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar to a group of Hamas supporters in northern Gaza. “And if Israel quits the West Bank, Hamas will take it over. And we say this is true” (Reuters, Nov. 9, 2007). Zahar co-founded Hamas and is now the foreign minister in Ismail Haniyeh’s government, which exists separately from the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli leaders would do well to accept Zahar’s threat at face value.
The West Bank has been one of the major bargaining chips on the table leading up to the peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Israeli leaders have expressed a willingness to vacate Jewish settlements in the area just as they did in the Gaza Strip in 2006.
The withdrawal from Gaza turned ugly almost immediately, as terrorists flooded into the gap Israel left, even while it was under Fatah control. The area became a hive of militant activity, hosting thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli soil. Then, this past June, Hamas forcibly seized the territory, and today the Gaza Strip is a de facto Palestinian state run entirely by the extremist group.
Zahar’s announcement comes as no surprise, as Hamas has never tried very hard to disguise its intention to ultimately destroy Israel.
The question is, will it have any impact on the Olmert government?
“We say to those in the West Bank, take a lesson from what happened in Gaza,” Zahar said (ibid.). We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.