Fears of a Hamas takeover of the West Bank are exaggerated

Over the previous few months, there was an escalation of violence within the occupied West Bank. Armed clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli military in Jenin and Jerusalem and elsewhere have resulted within the deaths of a number of Palestinian fighters and civilians and the accidents of a number of troopers from the Israeli occupation forces. There have been additionally stabbings, car-ramming assaults, and shootings at completely different areas focusing on Israeli troopers and settlers.

These incidents coincided with the escape of six Palestinian political prisoners from the Israeli Gilboa jail.

In view of those developments, Israel’s safety providers have expressed growing concern concerning the rising resistance within the West Bank. More particularly, Israeli officers have raised the spectre of a Hamas takeover of the occupied Palestinian territories presently underneath the nominal management of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But how practical is that this prospect?

Since Hamas’s victory within the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Israel has perceived the motion as a grave risk. Then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear that his authorities was not going to cooperate with a Hamas-led cupboard, the best way it had with the Fatah-led PA.

The subsequent tensions between Fatah and Hamas, fuelled by exterior forces, escalated into armed clashes, during which Hamas fighters had been capable of take management of the Gaza Strip. Israel imposed a debilitating siege on the strip and within the following years launched repeated lethal wars on its folks, killing hundreds and destroying civilian properties and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the PA, now underneath Fatah’s management once more, launched an enormous safety operation to uproot Hamas from the Wes Bank. Working with Israel, it arrested a whole lot of Hamas members, closed its places of work and associations and clamped down on its supporters. The identical occurred with Islamic Jihad, an ally of Hamas.

Since then, the motion has been capable of arrange small cells to hold out restricted operations in opposition to Israeli forces. But the violence of the previous few months raised considerations inside the Israeli safety neighborhood concerning the extent of Hamas’s penetration of the West Bank and its skill to rally different teams to hold out resistance actions.

Some have perceived the brand new “security infrastructure” Hamas has constructed as completely different from the restricted cells it had up to now and harder to hint. Such a growth might be thought-about a significant failure of the Israeli occupation forces and intelligence, which over the previous few years have tightened their grip on the West Bank.

Hamas additionally seems to be more and more coordinating on-the-ground actions with different Palestinian factions. In mid-September, because the violence escalated and fears emerged of an Israeli assault on Jenin, Hamas, together with the armed wing of Fatah and Islamic Jihad, introduced a joint “operations room” to battle off any Israeli assault.

One main consequence of those developments is the growing feeling of insecurity in Israel and amongst Israeli settlers within the West Bank. There are fears that the West Bank and Jerusalem would possibly plunge into violence, as they did throughout the so-called Knife Intifada of 2015-16, when a whole lot of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis had been killed, or throughout the sequence of bombings within the 1990s and the second Intifada within the 2000s.

These assaults have taken place regardless of the Israeli military’s common arrest campaigns, safety summons, and repeated round the clock incursions into cities, villages and refugee camps throughout the West Bank, in addition to the continual Israeli safety coordination with the PA.

It is essential to notice that the latest armed assaults occurred within the context of rising anger on the PA. In April, President Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the Palestinian legislative elections for fear of Fatah, which dominates the PA, dropping to Hamas. This drew sharp condemnations from varied Palestinian political factions and the Palestinian folks.

Palestinians had been additionally angered by the feeble response of the PA to Israeli aggression in opposition to worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and compelled evictions of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Likewise, the Palestinian authorities did little to counteract the lethal Israeli assault of Gaza in May.

The demise of Nizar Banat by the hands of the PA’s safety forces in late June was one other occasion that fuelled Palestinian rejection of Abbas. The assassination drew massive crowds of Palestinians to the streets, the place they confronted a brutal crackdown by Palestinian safety forces. This solely prompted additional outrage and amplified requires Abbas’s resignation.

A ballot carried out by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and revealed in September revealed that 80 p.c of the respondents need the president to resign. At the identical time, 45 p.c imagine that Hamas ought to lead the Palestinians, whereas solely 19 p.c stated Fatah deserves this function.

The fashionable opposition to Abbas and the armed navy battle in opposition to the Israeli occupation within the West Bank have ignited fears in some circles that Hamas would possibly profit from these occasions and mobilise different factions for its personal ends. Some Israeli and overseas analysts have been vocal about the opportunity of such mobilisation resulting in Hamas taking management of the West Bank because it did in Gaza.

It is true that Hamas want to be the dominant drive in Palestinian politics and finish Abbas’s dictatorial rule, however statements about the opportunity of a Hamas takeover of the West Bank appear vastly exaggerated for a number of causes.

First, Hamas nonetheless doesn’t have an built-in, sturdy infrastructure within the West Bank and due to this fact, doesn’t have the required energy to increase its affect over it. Its reputation might have elevated, however the PA and the Israeli occupation forces proceed to place critical efforts into dismantling cells and networks loyal to the group. This is stopping it from establishing a deeper footprint.

Second, the PA could also be rejected by many Palestinians, however it nonetheless instructions full navy energy over the West Bank. It might endure from inside tensions, however it’s nonetheless capable of mobilise all its loyalists, who’re united of their fear of dropping their privileges if their patrons fall from energy. PA officers are able to do all the things and something to remain in energy and wouldn’t hesitate to hunt Israeli navy assist.

Third, Israel continually seeks to dislodge Hamas from the West Bank at any value, given the grave risk that any elevated Hamas capabilities there would pose to the greater than 400,000 Israeli settlers illegally residing on occupied Palestinian land. It is extremely unlikely they’d enable Hamas to develop its energy within the West Bank to the purpose the place it could stage a takeover.

This fear-mongering on a part of Israeli officers about Hamas’s capabilities could also be aimed toward undermining any efforts of mediation between Hamas and Fatah, after the latest tensions following the cancellation of the elections. It is in Israel’s direct curiosity to maintain Palestinian factions divided to allow them to by no means current a united entrance to its occupation and crimes.

The Israeli management can also be taking part in up this Hamas’s “resurgence” probably to garner extra worldwide help for its brutal safety campaigns in opposition to the Palestinians. The elevated worldwide highlight on the raids on Islam’s third holiest web site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the pressured expulsions of Jerusalemites from their properties has fearful it. It is, due to this fact, looking for to take consideration away from these crimes and dominate the narrative on Palestine once more.

What Israel and its allies, nevertheless, can’t preclude is the spectacular lack of legitimacy the PA has suffered, which renders its rule over the West Bank in the long term utterly untenable.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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