The head of Palestinian Authority (PA) forces in the West Bank, General Dhiab al-Ali, has told Israeli newspaper ‘Ha’aretz’: “If Gaza remains mutinous, the Palestinian Authority will have no choice but to use force against it”.
It goes without saying that any such operation by the PA in the West Bank against Hamas in the Gaza will need more than just a nod from the Israelis to go ahead. The Israelis will need to supply the PA forces with the logistics of, firstly, moving PA forces from the West Bank to Gaza and, secondly, provide the kind of armaments needed for such an operation – something the PA forces simply do not have.
So far al-Ali denies that there has been any consultation with the Israelis on the matter but the idea that the PA and Israel have not discussed the possibilities is very unrealistic.
In January of next year President Mahmoud Abbas’ presidency ends. There should then be an election to find the next President but it is unlikely that Hamas will be allowed to put up a candidate since the organisation has been declared a ‘terrorist organisation’. This would lead to unrest in the West Bank. In all likelihood Abbas will then declare a state of emergency and extend his presidency with the possibility of then ruling by decree, effectively making him a dictator over the Palestinian people and thus running the risk of a civil war.
From Israel’s point of view, it needs to resolve the ‘Gaza problem’ – preferably before Abbas’ presidency ends. However, Hamas is a formidable military force in the Gaza and also has a strong political power base among ordinary Palestinians who had voted them into government before the PA led by Abbas usurped Hamas power for themselves. Contrary to al-Ali’s assertion that the Gaza under Hamas is ‘mutinous’, it was Fatah that mutinied against Hamas’ democratically elected yet unrecognised government.
The reality is that, if there is to be an invasion of the Gaza to overthrow the Hamas government, it will be undertaken by Israeli forces who would likely ‘soften up’ the Gaza with air strikes prior to a full on invasion that would include PA forces. Naturally the propaganda and rhetoric would be that it was the PA that had planned the assault and carried it out playing down Israel’s role in any such an attack.
The short term gain for the Israelis is that they get immediate security in the Gaza provided by forces that are no longer hostile to Israel. This will result in the cessation of rocket attacks across into Israeli townships close to the Gaza, though rocket attacks have all but ceased already.
For the intermediate term gain, it could be – and this only speculative – that Israel and the PA could come to a deal whereby Israel withdraws all the settlements from the West Bank and realigns some, if not all, of its so-called ‘security barrier’, in exchange for the PA transferring all Palestinians from the Gaza Strip for annexation to Israel where the settlers could then move to. The Israelis then end up with the Gaza Strip with it having been given to them by the Palestinians. Later, of course, there will be further ‘disturbances’ in the West Bank when the Israelis will then feel the need to re-enter the West Bank to start the process of occupation all over again gradually whittling down Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonisation and another round of settlement building.