The eleven-day war between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza resulted in hostilities being brought to a temporary halt. The war, by all means, is far from over. In fact, Hamas is infamous for waging what it calls a ‘Forever War’ against the proverbial ‘Zionist enemy’ – Israel and its people. What we now have is a Cold War-like situation between Israel and Palestine. They are not fighting a physical war for now, but every day is a battle of survival for the two sides. However, with the eleven-day war and despite its humiliating loss to Israel, Hamas’ fortunes might just take a miraculous turn for the better.
We, at TFI, had earlier explained how despite losing the war with Israel, Hamas had won power, support and a handsome edge over Fatah – which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas’ likability in the West Bank is growing. It has projected itself as the mantle carrier of the Palestinian cause among the already radicalised majority in the West Bank. With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas consecutively postponing elections which are long overdue, Fatah is not exuding any confidence against their armed and extremist opponents.
Projections suggest that if elections in the West Bank were to be held today, Fatah would be reduced to an embarrassing third position, and Hamas would emerge as the clear winner. Effectively, Hamas would gain control over the West Bank. Already in power in the Gaza Strip, a victory in the West Bank would mean that Israel would be surrounded by armed terror organisations from all sides – Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the East and West.
Fatah is a toned-down proponent of anti-Zionism and Palestinian freedom. Plainly speaking, Fatah is the lesser evil for Israel, which is why the Jewish nation wants it to remain in control of the Palestinian Authority. Yet, at the grassroot level, Fatah is fast losing support in the West Bank due to the perception among Palestinian radicals that it is not killing enough Jews and not inflicting massive costs on Israel.
Hamas promises to do just the opposite. In its fight against Israel, it is driven by a palpable sense of hatred for Jews. It aims at eradicating the land of all Jews – whether that be by physically exterminating them or forcing them to flee their homeland once again.
Now that we have established what Hamas’ psyche is like, let us come to the more disturbing reality facing the world community. This terror organisation is well poised to win Palestinian support in the West Bank and ride to power, displacing Fatah into near irrelevance. And what do you think Hamas will do once it gains authority over the Palestinian Authority? It will replicate the Gaza model in the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas rules dictatorially. It is an oppressive and occupational force. It uses Gazans as mere cattle fodder in the ‘Forever War’ against Israel. The lives of ordinary Gazans are replete with pain, suffering and oppression. However, the realities of Hamas’ rule in Gaza are in no way preventing Palestinians in the West Bank from supporting the terror organisation. In the larger fight against Israel and Jews, the people of West Bank seem motivated to bring hell in the form of Hamas upon themselves.
Hamas will turn the West Bank into a warzone. If Hamas were to emerge as the winner in Palestinian Authority elections in the West Bank, Israel would face rocket attacks not just from the Gaza Strip, but also from the region west of the Jordan River. It would also launch jihadist attacks on Israel from its territory – which in turn will trigger unprecedented Israeli offensives over the region.
A Palestinian Authority-controlled by Hamas would inherently be hostile towards Israel. Meanwhile, with Hamas in power – the countries around the world which have historically been sympathetic to the ‘Palestinian cause’ might just grow enthusiastic about the Palestine bogey once again. It would definitely be interesting to see how the Arab world reacts to Hamas storming to power (in a hypothetical scenario) in the West Bank.
Will the Arab world continue in their endeavour to foster better ties with Israel, or will the ‘Palestinian cause’ under Hamas’ rule over West Bank once again cloud their judgement, thus getting the better of them? Surely, countries like Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon would go all-out in their support for Hamas. It is the remainder of the Arab world whose positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we will be watching very closely. Will countries like the UAE, Sudan and Bahrain continue with the momentum of the Abraham Accords?
But given the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE might continue in their tacit engagement with Israel. It is upon the US, whether it will continue aid for Palestine or not. Hamas, with its extremist ideology and war crimes has already dented the Palestinian cause. And if it rules in the West Bank too, throwing Israel and Palestine in a perpetual state of war, the Palestinian movement will only grow more destructive, and Israel will defend itself even more aggressively.
Having said all that we have said so far, Hamas riding to power in the West Bank, despite its growing support among the people of the region is not half as easy as we have made it sound. Israel is not going to remain a mute spectator to Hamas’ rise in the West Bank. It will do all in its power, and unleash all its might to ensure that Hamas does not come to control the Palestinian Authority, and as a consequence, the West Bank. At the end of it all, Hamas’ growth in the West Bank might just be culled by Israel so spectacularly that the terror organisation would be forced to repeat “so close, yet so far” on loop.