Hamas is Israel’s best hope. The Islamic group stands as a bastion protecting Jews from the perils of the peace process. Where the treacherous Israeli government is cowed by the American-Saudi alliance, Hamas stands tall, incidentally protecting Israelis from national suicide. Israeli politicians, Jewish barons of the Diaspora, and their foreign friends are ready to squeeze Israel into an eight-mile-wide strip. Hamas rejects that suicide on the part of Jews. It doesn’t matter that saving the Jews is only a byproduct of  Hamas’ Islamic policies. The current Jewish interests are best served by Hamas’ policies. Served at a very low cost, too. Rocket attacks on Sderot greatly diminished after Hamas took power in Gaza. Hamas cannot rein in their fellow Islamic fighters from the Izzadin Kassam Brigades. The Hamas-Kassam relationship mirrors the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas relationship. Hamas was too militant for the Brotherhood, while Kassam is too militant for Hamas. But for ideological reasons, no party can dissociate from another. That’s an Arab variety of the American “our scoundrels” policy. Hamas supports the Kassam Brigades as “our scoundrel” against Fatah scoundrels such as the Dughmushes. Hamas, moreover, honestly attempted to end the rocket attacks on Israel, and pressed PIJ and PRC as much as it could; Fatah never tried that much. Hamas offered Israel a long-term truce. Being an honest Islamic organization, Hamas cannot sign peace with a non-Muslim state on the ostensibly Palestinian land. The insistence on “truce only” testifies to Hamas’ honesty and dignity: according to Islamic law, Hamas can even deceive its enemy with a peace offer, but it doesn’t. In practice, a long-term truce is no different from peace: no sane person doubts that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty is really a truce. Given the recurrence of wars, historically most peace agreements appear to be truces. Hamas can guarantee Israel decent security during the truce. Even now, during the extreme hostility between Israel and Gaza, Hamas behaves prudently and doesn’t escalate the conflict. Hamas doesn’t fear an Israeli invasion of Gaza. Such an invasion would benefit Hamas by allowing it to present itself as a capable guerrilla organization rather than a group of inept statesmen. Hamas negotiated with Israel reasonably: for example, it offered to guarantee security at the crossings so that Israel can open them. Fatah, by contrast, made unrealistic demands, such as the dismantling of all checkpoints and the release of all security prisoners, without a trace of reciprocity. At the bottom line, Hamas are the honest and decent Muslims, while Fatah is a band of thugs. Hamas is a painstakingly home-bred organization, developed from grassroots; unlike Fatah, which was conceived in Cairo, bred in Jordan, brought from Tunis, and built into the top gang by Israel. Jordan erred with Fatah and evicted it in the Black September when bitten by the Palestinian guerrillas. Israel grew similarly disenchanted with Arafat, who finally refused peace, apparently moved by the Israeli oligarchs and establishment figures who have great economic and political interest in continuing the occupation. Instead of abandoning Fatah, Israel decided to recycle it. But Abbas proved no more a puppet than Arafat. Both eventually adopted nationalist rhetoric and refused concessions to Israel. Unlike Hamas’ Haniyeh, Abbas cannot deliver on his promises, and failed to deliver any security improvements in the West Bank even with tremendous Israeli assistance.

Two types of religious movements evolve into military forces: truly mad fanatics and/or militants who are incidentally religious. Ayatollahs fall into the first category, the Taliban into the second. Hamas occupies the unsustainable middle ground. It is a moderate Islamic organization which only looks radical to atheistic Israeli analysts and secular Fatah gangsters. Unlike the Taliban, Hamas lacks long-term military experience. Hamas’ security achievements in Gaza are therefore disappointing. Hamas predictably failed on economic issues—who can expect economic genius from Islamists?—and nothing less than a genius can help Gaza’s economy. Hamas, however, had a slight chance of imposing order on Gaza—and failed. Hamas initially cleansed Gaza’s streets of unorganized violence and arranged a truce with Gaza’s organized criminal groups, most notably the Dughmushes. But Hamas seems incapable of such sweeping security measures as would be required to end Fatah’s insurrection in Gaza. Assisted by Israel, Fatah is poised to engage Hamas in a terrorist war, with car bombings, rocket attacks, shootings, and peaceful protests. Arafat needed an immense security apparatus to subdue rival factions. Hamas is less brutal and artful than Arafat, and refrains from mass arrests and assassinations. But nothing less will preserve its power. Common Gazans voted for Hamas as an alternative to thuggish Fatah; failure to deliver will turn them away from Hamas. Gazans now perceive Fatah as an Israeli proxy capable of opening the borders, re-enabling the massive flow of aid, and possibly even giving them back the Israeli jobs they lost after the outbreak of the Second Intifada.

Hamas is too soft to impose its power on Gazans. Elections will allow Hamas to end the impasse created by its takeover of Gaza while saving face: it will step down according to the wishes of Gaza’s people, not Fatah’s. It is unlikely that Israel will end her support for Fatah or economic repressions against Gaza. Unless Hamas miraculously radicalizes, it will lose power. And Israel will lose the real peace partner.