One day after Hamas began to systematically take over Fatah security installations in the Gaza Strip and besieging Fatah security compounds, Palestinian Information Minister Dr. Mustafa Barghouti uttered to me, “It’s over.”
Fatah forces crumbled in the face of the better armed, more disciplined and ideological Hamas forces. Late in the day, President Mahmoud Abbas gave the Fatah Presidential Guard their first clear order to attack points held by Hamas. But like many of Abbas’ recent decisions, it came too late. Many Fatah forces had already fled for Egypt. Others feared for their lives. And, none had the spirit to mount a new offensive, so a Fatah attack never materialized.
By the time Hamas gunmen were declaring victory and celebrating in the streets, President Abbas had declared a state of emergency. He announced that he was dissolving the power sharing government between Hamas and Fatah, fired Prime Minister Ismayel Haniya from Hamas, and called for new elections. Again, his decisions were too late. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that President Abbas’ declarations were “worthless.” Hamas won elections a year ago and now they won dominance over the Gaza Strip. Dr. Barghouti said the Palestinian people are dividing into two almost-states. “It will be two authorities,” said Barghouti, “one in the West Bank and one in Gaza.”
Israelis view the development as a new threat, an enemy electrified by a victory and unchecked on their border. Former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold said, “Over time, this is something Israel cannot live with. We have gone into a much more difficult reality.” With the international community cutting off aid to the Palestinian government over the past year, Hamas leaders went begging and ran right into the open arms and bank accounts of Iran. And, Iran was happy to supply Hamas with bags of money.
Israeli intelligence says Iran supplied Hamas with the weapons that helped them win the war. Iran already had its forward deployed, proxy army, Hezbollah, on Israel’s Northern border. Now Iran has an alliance with the radical-Islamic, developing Hamastan in the south. Israel already knows the threat of the short-range Qassam rockets hitting border towns like Sderot. But as Hamas is getting better weapons smuggled through tunnels under the Egyptian border, Israel fears longer-range rockets may start reaching Ashdod, home to one of Israel’s largest ports, and beyond.
Avi Issakarov, the Palestinian affairs reporter for Haaretz newspaper, says the development gives Israel a new simplicity. No one can criticize the Israeli military for hitting back hard if they are fired upon by an unambiguous enemy government on their border, despite the certainty of civilian casualties. “Now they’ll have the green light to do what they want to do,” he says.
However, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev says his government will still seek out moderates within the Palestinian population with whom they can deal. But, as the fighters from the moderate party lay in the morgue and the radical Islamic gunmen celebrate in the street, it becomes clear that the moderates they can talk to are all in the West Bank. I pressed him about the likelihood that Israel will ever deal with a Hamas government in Gaza and the answer came back sharp, “No. Not until they meet the international benchmarks: recognize Israel, recognize past agreements with Israel, and renounce violence.”
Always focused on the threat of Global Jihadsim, Ambassador Gold says there are ramifications that go beyond Israel, the Palestinian territories and their borders. He says Al Qaeda and Radical Islam grow from a sense of victory. The jihadists’ bravado, ambition and funding increase when they see a victory within their religion. “It’s a shot of adrenaline in the arm,” he says.
Mike Tobin is a foreign correspondent for FOX News Channel based in Jerusalem. You can read his bio here.
Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.