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Will Israel be able to end Hamas and revive the Palestinian Authority?

December 17, 2021 at 12:00 pm

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz in Jerusalem, 12 October 2021 [Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

In August, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah and met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior security and intelligence aides in order to allegedly discuss ways to ease the harsh life of Palestinians.

Recently, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej revealed to Israel’s Channel 12 that Gantz would meet Abbas again, and frankly stated that the aim of his prospective meeting would be part of Israeli efforts to strengthen the PA in order to be able to deter the recent wave of Palestinian resistance.

Last week, the local Palestinian news agency revealed that the PA presidency had prepared a plan to crackdown on the Palestinian resistance and it is ready to discuss it with Gantz during his upcoming visit to Ramallah. The plan was prepared by senior Palestinian security commanders, including Majed Faraj, the chief of the Palestinian intelligence agency.

Early this week, Israeli journalist and specialist in Palestinian affairs Gal Berger made it very clear that the Israeli occupation authorities are concerned by how weak the PA has become and the inability of its security services to rein in the Palestinian resistance, citing the increasing popularity of Hamas. “Israel hurried to help the PA because it is unable to deal with Hamas,” Berger told Israeli public broadcaster Kan. But will these joint efforts end Hamas and the Palestinian resistance?

The fact on the ground is that the Palestinian resistance, mainly the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas has massive popularity across the territories where Palestinians live, including inside and outside Palestine and Palestinian lands occupied in 1948. It seems that every Israeli attempt to revive the PA or campaign against Hamas raises Hamas’ popularity among the Palestinian people even the affiliates of secular and liberal Palestinian factions.

READ: Will Israeli wall around Gaza stop Palestinian resistance?

“Hamas enjoys high popularity in Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem,” Zvi Yehezkeli, senior commentator and the head of the Arab desk in Israeli Channel 13 News, told the Israeli Hebrew newspaper Maariv early this week. “Hamas also is the favourite Palestinian factions among the Palestinian communities abroad because it is the only Palestinian faction that is interested in the refugees’ affairs.”

A couple of days ago, Kan said: “Now, Hamas has many central areas where it is working with full freedom and without fear in the West Bank.” During the recent weeks, Israeli media has repeatedly referred, for example, to Jenin as a Hamas stronghold in the West Bank, citing the massive funeral of the late Hamas leader and former minister Wasfi Qabha, who died of COVID-19 weeks ago.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 25 July 2021 [Thaer Ganaim/ApaImages]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 25 July 2021 [Thaer Ganaim/ApaImages]

With this in mind, Amir Bohbot, the military editor and senior defence analyst for leading Israeli news website Walla, reported this week the recommendation of several senior Israeli army and intelligence commanders to the government, who called for a prisoner swap with Hamas as soon as possible before the deterioration of the security situation in the occupied West Bank by the death of Abbas.

Analysts believe that the ongoing PA campaign against Hamas and the other Palestinian factions is evidence that these movements have a great impact across the occupied Palestinian territories despite the tight restrictions they are operating under.

Describing Hamas, Kan said: “Despite the PA security agencies’ efforts to regain control in the West Bank, Hamas is still the real threat to the PA and Israel there.” Israeli journalist Zvi Yehezkeli echoed the same stance: “The major threat facing Israel is not Iran, but Hamas in Gaza, West Bank and Israel.”

“Israel’s efforts to reinforce the PA position and the meetings being held between the Defence Minister [Gantz] and the PA president in the light of the rise of Hamas’ popularity are only attempts to resurrect a dead body,” he added.

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Israeli Professor and journalist, Ariel Segal, also noted that the rising popularity of the resistance movements, noting this proves the failure of the strategic vision of the Israeli intelligence and its inability to predict the future and propose solutions. He described the cooperation between Israel and the PA as a form of reciprocal utility. “Israel maintains the safety of the PA and the PA maintains the safety of Israel,” he said.

When military editor Bohbot reported hte recommendation of senior army and intelligence commanders that Israel should achieve a prisoner swap with Hamas as soon as possible, he cited the price Israeli soldiers might face if they were forced into a confrontation with Hamas. He said that the commanders cited the daily pains and sufferings that members of the elite Israeli army unit faced during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014.

Meanwhile, Hamas said it continue its struggle for Palestinian rights. Spokesman Hazem Qasem said: “Giving up our resistance and laying down our arms is a betrayal of Palestine and Palestinians.” He added that the movement is, however, open to all options, including peaceful solutions.

In the occupied West Bank, Hamas’ popularity is on the rise and the PA’s position as a national Palestinian body is fading day by day. This leaves Israel without a partner in the West Bank and the situation will one day, after a bitter war of attrition, become similar to that in Gaza. Only then will the occupation state of Israel start thinking about a serious solution with the Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.