Will Have to Compromise With Hamas
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B9) by Roni Shaked — Gaza, unlike the West Bank, is a powder-keg for Arafat too. Hamas has been flourishing, especially in the past few months, thanks to the socio-economic distress there, and has begun to pose a threat to Arafat. The activities of welfare organizations and the help of Islamic charity funds has made them an alternative to the PA. Thus, for example, Hamas summer camps –an entire month with two meals a day, lessons in English, computers, and weapons training, along with tradition and religion — cost only ten shekels in Gaza. Gaza is not homogenous. Despite the cooperation between the various organizations since the beginning of the Intifada, there are still many pockets, like Rafah, where Arafat has no control. The opposition organizations feel stronger there, with wider public support, and do not always fulfill agreements and understandings. After the Dolphinarium attack, Arafat held many meetings with Hamas and managed to convince them to coordinate their military actions with him. But in the past three weeks, Hamas, along with operatives of the new ‘Popular Resistance’ organization, has started firing mortars from Gaza into Israeli territory.

The PA reaction: Ghazi Jabali and soldiers from Moussa Arafat’s (the Rais’s cousin) Military Intelligence erected roadblocks in order to arrest the operatives of Hamas and the Popular Resistance. The result: gun battles at one of the roadblocks and the wounding of three members of the Popular Resistance. The atmosphere began heating up. On Monday there were marches and a protest in Gaza against Arafat’s security coordination with Israel. Protesters marched on the Burij police station and tried to take it over. Palestinian police officers succeeded in repelling them. The protesters changed direction, marched to the house of Moussa Arafat, fired at his car and his house, and engaged in gun battles with his bodyguards and reinforcements from the PA security organizations. Only after midnight, when the security organizations cut off the flow of electricity to Gaza, did the shooting stop.

Arafat, who was in the Persian Gulf at the time, received reports of the loss of control and immediately returned to Gaza to deal with the problem. This incident can indeed teach us much about the fragility of the internal stability of Gaza. Arafat can use his armed forces against Hamas, but his problem is that today most of the public supports Hamas and its policy of terror attacks. An opinion poll conducted this week in the territories revealed that 95% of the population of Gaza supports military actions against settlers and soldiers in the territories, and 65% supports terror actions inside Israel.

Therefore, Arafat has no choice but to resolve his conflict with Hamas. He must compromise in order to preserve national unity and avoid an internal crisis. And compromise with Hamas has clear significance: a green light for escalating the struggle against Israel.

This article ran in Yediot Aharonot, July 27th, 2001