Terrorist groups can do without large financing; they can extort or collect small donations. Weapons supply is also not tremendously important for them: glut of weapons helped no guerrilla group, but many fought with old rifles and hand-made grenades; Hezbollah receives rockets, Hamas makes them with fertilizer, and both shell Israel. Two things are critical for terrorists: popular appeal of their immediate goals and a territorial base. Popular appeal assures terrorists of dispersed financial sources and logistics. Territorial base, a safe haven however small, allows them to train, stock weapons, and relax. Governments can beat terrorists either by bloody annihilation of popular support or by taking over their safe havens. Barak gave Hezbollah the safe haven of Bekaa Valley, Sharon gave Hamas Gaza.

Terrorists can afford irresponsibility. They hide among civilians, accept retaliation against population and infrastructure, and pile up unrealistic demands. Hamas the terrorist group dreamed of control over Gaza. Days after taking over the place, Hamas faces drastically new situation: responsibility. Weeks ago, Hamas could recklessly fight Israel while leaving routine municipal job to Fatah. Suddenly, it is Hamas who must care of the transformers kicked out in Israeli retaliatory raids. Gazans now hold Hamas responsible for uninterrupted water and power supply from Israel, for the open border crossings, for continued foreign aid. Hamas is forced to abandon its terrorist ambitions and behave like a government. Iranian government, one of Hamas’ sponsors, utterly disregards economic needs of its citizens and ignores sanctions, but huge Iran with massive oil exports can sustain a period of hardship; Gaza cannot. Two weeks of blockade will force Gazans into the Bronze Age they claim they live in Palestine from. Like the PLO years ago, Hamas has either to abandon its patriotic rhetoric and accept Israel or provoke sanctions which will make it unpopular.

Hamas did not plan to take over Gaza. Internecine violence escalated blow-for-blow until Fatah tried to assassinate Haniyeh and Hamas reacted to the attempt. Fatah’s collapse in Gaza surprised Hamas which only meant to retaliate in style, not accomplish a coup. Hamas’ claims of Fatah’ deliberately withdrawing to stage Hamas’ coup are not entirely off the mark. Abbas hardly lured Hamas into the trap, but he and Fatah commanders knew they have no stake in Gaza. Abbas was only too happy to leave that giant inner city to Hamas. Neither Egypt nor Israel wanted to rule over the Palestinian throngs in Gaza; Abbas, too, would love to have a Palestinian state without Gazans.

After the unwanted takeover, Hamas acted to return to the previous situation. Haniyeh immediately offered to call on his supporters to cease the fire. He went so far as to propose a Hamas-free government of independent technocrats. Hamas cried of united Palestine. But it will be very hard for Haniyeh to get Gaza off his hands. Fatah will ask for a humiliating settlement which removes Hamas from the Palestinian political scene.

Hamas is close to hysteria. Decades of patient struggle are wasted through a single wrong move, the takeover of Gaza. Hamas’ hawks, unable to deliver positive returns, call for the total war with Fatah. Hamas politicians implore Egypt to accept their unintended rule in Gaza; closing of the Egyptian border is one of their many nightmares. Fatah, not Israel blockaded Gaza by requesting cessation of gasoline deliveries. Hamas fired no rockets on Israel after the takeover – only Fatah’s forces do to provoke Israeli reprisals.

Hamas resembles Taliban: a group of militant fundamentalists taking over a state. But Gaza is critically different from Afghanistan: in Gaza, there is no place to hide. Mullah Omar was very moderate in foreign relations, and even fought drug production, the main income source of Afghans. But, being a fundamentalist, Omar could not refuse to host the very Islamic Osama. In minuscule Gaza, almost any guerrilla group is a potential threat to Hamas. Hamas will annihilate competing militant groups, and Israel can easily extinguish the others. There is no danger of Talibanization of Gaza under Hamas. Rather, Hamas will go the way of its parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood, to become a relatively moderate Islamic organization.
Hamas can turn the tables at any moment by welcoming the Jews back to Gush Katif, to live under Hamas’ protection. Many will go.

Leaving Gaza to Hamas is insufficient. Israel should allow Hamas to finish off Fatah in the West Bank. Then let Jordan deploy its peacekeeping forces in the West Bank. After Hamas and Fatah exhaust each other, with no political infrastructure of Palestinian statehood in place, Jordan will annex Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank into confederacy. Israeli will be left with Jerusalem, settlements, and possibly with Hebron.

Israel is utterly wrong to support Fatah. Peace with quislings is worthless. Israel signed a peace treaty with Amin Gemayel of Lebanon only to see it denounced months later. A peace treaty with Fatah will allow Israel to withdraw from the territories – which she could do anytime without the treaty. Fatah cannot and doesn’t want to crack down on anti-Israeli militants.
Hamas won elections in the West Bank. Aiding Fatah tremendously discredits America and Israel in the Muslim world: for all the rhetoric, the West aids mobsters against a democratically elected party. Palestinians hate Fatah – a bunch of gangsters, racketeers. Hamas, though our enemy, is way more decent than Fatah.
Unlike Fatah, Hamas will not readily sign a peace treaty, but it can offer Israel something more important – a de facto peace.

better welcome HAMAS