If it appears…that Israel is Hamas’ campaign manager in next week’s elections for the Palestinian parliament, few would argue – especially in Hamas.
And Israel’s campaign strategy, thus far, has worked like magic.
Everything Israel does…only bolsters the credibility of Hamas…
If Israel actually wanted Hamas to win, it couldn’t have helped it more.
Months ago, Israel declared with unequivocal conviction that if Hamas candidates were on the ballot, the election would not take place.
This granted Hamas renewed and authoritative recognition for its status as a continued bona fide arch-enemy of Israel. It served as an updated certificate of Kashrut to Hamas…
Israeli officials made it clear that Hamas candidates, even if they were on the ballot, would not be allowed to campaign.
It became clear at once, however, that there was no need for Hamas candidates to campaign. All they had to do was to wait for IDF troops and Israel Police to come arrest them – and in front of news cameras.
You couldn’t have prayed for a better campaign. Instant visibility, immediate name recognition,…high-profile resistance to occupation. Total credibility.
Everything Israel did, from assassinating Hamas suspects at a time when Hamas was…observing an Egypt-brokered period of relative calm, to issuing dire warnings of what might happen if Hamas were to achieve 30, 40, or even 51 percent of the vote, served to fuel the Hamas juggernaut.
Even the widely photographed masked youths throwing rocks at IDF soldiers in the Hebron market – who, while they resemble Hamas activists, turn out to be Jewish – may give a bit of a boost to Hamas. As carried on Arab satellite news stations, the images play on Palestinian hatred of settlers, Palestinian fears of domination and defilement of holy sites they share with Jews, and the Palestinian sense that even if soldiers and police beat, choke, wrestle and threaten Jewish demonstrators, they do not gun them down [ed., as they do Palestinian demonstrators].
All of this is well-argued and persuasive. But I’d like to take Burston’s analysis even farther: why isn’t it possible that Israel, in a most cynical sense, actually WOULD welcome Hamas doing well or even winning the elections? Think about it. There may be Israeli policymakers who believe such a victory would lessen the need for Israel to engage with the Palestinians in any sort of negotiations. Should Hamas become the dominant political force in Palestinian politics, then even George Bush would stop demanding that Israel negotiate in good faith (as Condi Rice did regarding the Gaza crossing) and perhaps even lessen his opposition to Maaleh Adumim-type encroachments of Palestinian territory.
Further, there is a decent chance that a Hamas victory would exacerbate the chaos and violence stalking the streets of Palestine today. Typical of this attitude is LGF’s Palestinian Civil War Watch, a hopeful title if you know anything about the anti-Arab dyspeptic views of this blog. If Israeli leaders DO want a Hamas victory, they do so because they realize that a nation at war with itself will wage less effective war against its enemy (Israel). Instead of recruiting suicide bombers for Tel Aviv, Netanya, Jerusalem and Petach Tikva, Hamas and Fatah will be saving those explosives for their internal enemies. I’d call this view the Apocalyptic Hope–that if Palestinians turn their land into a boiling cauldron then Israel will somehow benefit.
But like much of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians (if indeed this IS something they believe), it will not work. Just because your neighboring enemy descends into seething civil war doesn’t mean you will escape scot free. Did it ever occur to Israeli leaders that the warring factions may turn to terrorism against Israel with a vengeance in order to prove their bona fides internally as resistance fighters? Palestinian chaos cannot help but severely impact Israel. In fact, Israel already faces severe and serious social problems of its ownranging from political corruption to one of the highest income gaps in the western world between rich and poor (thanks to Bibi’s Thatcherite economic policies). Do you seriously mean to tell me that with Israel’s own problems of crime, social decay, lawlessness and economic/religious/ethnic conflict that seeing your neighbor self-immolating will help your own society?
I have no smoking gun saying my suggestions here are true and that people like Ehud Olmert and Dov Weisglass are implementing policies that will deliberately advance Hamas. But given the detestable cynicism Weisglass expressed concerning Israel’s “defanging” of American opposition to its Palestinian policies, I wouldn’t put it past the scoundrel to harbor similarly cynical ideas about Hamas’ “helpful” role in “defanging” Palestinian lethality against Israel.
And to those interested in learning about the collusion between Israel and Hamas from its inception, Burston makes another valuable contribution to the debate in a discussion of the latter’s early history:
it was the diligent efforts of a generation of Israeli military and political officials that fostered the rise of Hamas in the first place. In the 1970s and 80s, the Civil Administration and the Shin Bet aided the Hamas precursor the Muslim Brotherhood as a hoped-for apolitical counterweight to the radical Popular Front, Democratic Front, and the militias and terror operatives of Arafat’s Fatah.
Ray Hanania has also written a well-researched 2002 article on this subject, Sharon and Likud nurtured rise of Hamas and benefit from its terrorism
As I’ve written here, the first Israeli attempt to create a political alternative to Fatah was the Village Leagues, a group of village quislings meant to divide Palestinian opinion and weaken opposition to the Occupation. When this attempt failed due to its obvious brazen opportunism and lack of sophistication, it turned to the Brotherhood as a more homegrown religious opposition to Fatah’s secular nationalism. And Hamas has succeeded beyond Israel’s wildest dreams. And it has only itself to blame. Just as the U.S. has only itself to blame for funding and training Afghan mujahadeen fighting against the Russians, who in turn have turned their guns against us there and in Iraq. You reap what you sow.
And if Israel hopes to sow internal Palestinian chaos with a Hamas victory, it may reap a whirlwind of escalating violence within its own borders as well.