GAZA CITY – With dueling authorities running Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinian people find themselves in the middle of an experiment. In Gaza, where Hamas is in charge, the high price of armed resistance to Israel has discredited any attempts to revive the conflict. In the West Bank, under Fatah rule, negotiations have gone nowhere. Neither track of Palestinian politics – resistance or negotiation – offers hope of achieving independence. As a result, Palestinians face their most difficult challenge since 1948.
Israeli threats of renewing its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip are taken very seriously. The scenes of devastation are still vivid in the streets and neighborhoods of Gaza, and Hamas is taking no chances of provoking Israel into a new war. The fighting cost Hamas two of its top leaders, Saeed Siyam and Nizar Rayan, and significantly weakened its military capabilities. Only recently have these been rebuilt.
Hamas finds itself in a difficult position, since its policy calls for strong resistance, alongside politics. Yet this policy has failed. Hamas has put pressure on all resistance groups in Gaza to refrain from provoking Israel. In an unprecedented statement, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas leader, said any missiles fired at Israel from Gaza would be “betrayal missiles.”
Instead, Hamas has turned its attention to the West Bank, where it has no political authority. It has called on Palestinians there to launch a new intifada against Israel, even while insisting on calm in the Gaza Strip.