Israel could not hope for a better solution to the conflict with Palestine than Hamas’ takeover of Gaza. The Jewish political establishment, from the semi-dead Sharon to the regrettably alive Peres, is humiliated: the disengagement from Gaza and the destruction of the Gush Katif Jewish settlements has created a pure terrorist state at Israel’s border. The American administration received a powerful blow: for all the political and military support extended to the empty shell of Fatah, it lost Gaza to Hamas in only two days of total fighting. The Egyptian government lost to the Muslim Brotherhood: Hamas, the Brotherhood’s spin-off, soundly defeated Fatah, the Egyptian government’s agent force in Gaza. Arab dictatorships tremble: for the first time, a truly popular government came to power in an Arab country through elections and sustained itself through military effort.Hamas’ victory in Gaza is a milestone Muslim military achievement. The mojahedeen won in Afghanistan against the Soviet troops with the critical assistance of the US; that fact has always made them uneasy. In Gaza, Hamas, helped by the pariah states of Iran and Syria, won against the American- and Israeli-sponsored Fatah. Egypt persecuted Muslim Brotherhood for decades; now a mere branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has established itself as a ruling party. Muslims saw Afghan mojahedeen as violent animals well below Arabs; by contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood is seen as a respectable Islamic organization. Impoverished Gazans swarmed the streets cheering the Hamas victory: pride can be a feasible alternative to money.

The West Bank and Gaza had long developed into distinct cultural entities. The West Bank Palestinians are closer to the Jordanians than to the Gazans. Gaza developed into a huge inner city permeated by crime, welfare, radicalism, youth bulge, and unemployment. The West Bank and Gaza cannot form a single state; Gaza can hardly be incorporated in any state at all. Gaza was a liability for the Palestinian state all along: disconnected from the West Bank, susceptible to Israeli whims, and full of the worst kind of Palestinians who are themselves arguably the worst kind of Arabs.

The only option for Palestinian statehood is declaring a state in the West Bank immediately, before Fatah disintegrates and Hamas takes over the government. The Arab countries, however, don’t want a Palestinian state, but rather the burning Palestinian issue. Accordingly, they are pushing Fatah to accept the Hamas-majority government. Such a government would spell the death of Fatah: bereft of funding and legal status for its militia, Fatah would quickly lose militants, adherents, and civil servants to Hamas. Then add to the equation the Arab mentality of siding with victors and fearing association with losers for fear of retributive massacres. Egypt can run a Taliban-style operation: foster a Palestinian army and pass it through the Egypt-Gaza border to fight Hamas. Even if Egypt decides to run such an operation in conjunction with the US instead of accommodating Hamas, Fatah is the least likely candidate for the nucleus of the new army. Fatah was a weak organization all along. Arafat merely channeled donations and assassinated competitors. Fatah has never evolved into a true guerrilla organization but has mostly just claimed credit for the operations carried out by splinter groups. Arafat was virtually no-one in Tunisia – exactly the reason Shimon Peres brought him back to Palestine; Peres needed a Palestinian dummy to sign a peace treaty with. Hamas, on the contrary, was painstakingly developed as a grassroots organization with a lot of popular support.

Hamas’ takeover of Gaza fulfills Israel’s wildest dreams. The Hamas rule brands the Palestinians as terrorists, shows them incapable of statehood and hostile to Israel, and removes the peace process from the agenda. The worst thing Israel could do now is to invade Gaza to clean out Hamas for Fatah’s benefit and to justify Israeli leftists and the American Administration bent on peace with Palestinians.

A hazardous guess is that Hamas and Fatah will split Palestine for now, with Abbas enthroned in the West Bank and Haniyeh in Gaza. Weak Abbas will be further swayed by Jordan’s king Abdullah and, in the best-case scenario, will accept confederation with Jordan with himself as the West Bank viceroy. Gaza will become a terrorist base and a zoo for the world media. At some future time, Israel will be forced to cleanse Gaza of Hamas as she has regularly cleansed the West Bank of the PLO before.
Israel would be wrong to support Fatah except in the context of a confederation with Jordan. Such a confederation reduces the issue of Judea and Samaria from the basis of Palestinian statehood to a border dispute with amenable Jordan. If the confederacy doesn’t work out, Israel would want Hamas to permeate the West Bank to end the peace process and justify annexation of wide security zones.

Israel’s current reflexive moves aimed at bolstering Abbas are wrong. Hamas already expropriated huge amounts of Israeli, Egyptian, and American weapons stored at Fatah’s bases in Gaza. Money given to Abbas will only relieve the unpaid Palestinian civil servants’ pressure on Hamas. Supporting phonies is not a viable policy, in any case.