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But it was during that brief period in which Arafat and Khomeini bonded that the Islamic Jihad emerged. Until then the PLO had been a largely secular nationalist movement. With a melding of perspectives, a Palestinian nationalist (Islamic) religious movement was possible.
Today we are looking at shifting alliances and an exceedingly complex situation:
Over a period of time, Iran has strengthened Hamas for its own purposes. Iranian leaders, mindful of the possibility that they might eventually be attacked by Israel, wanted a strong Hamas that would be able to generate a military distraction at Israel’s border.
But now Hamas has fallen out of favor with Iran. There is, first, the fact that Iran had not signed off on the Shalit deal; Hamas aroused Iran’s ire by acting independently and in defiance of its orders. What is more, according to reliable sources, covert understandings reached between Hamas and Israel transcended the Shalit deal.
But there are further complications, some of which have been alluded to by analysts in the course of the Israel-Hamas deal on Shalit.
Turkey and Iran have been engaged in a rivalry with regard to influence in Syria. Turkey, in fact, aspires to assume a position in Damascus that would allow it to supplant the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a long-standing relationship with Iran. In the midst of this rivalry, it has hardly escaped Iran’s attention that Hamas is courting Turkey. Perhaps this was the proverbial straw. Or perhaps it was the fact that Hamas is now considering moving its headquarters from Damascus to Cairo.
Whatever the case, Iran is well aware that a rapprochement of Turkey, Egypt and Hamas would be at its expense.
Once Iran decided it could no longer trust Hamas to act on its behalf, the time had come to activate Islamic Jihad. And Voila! the rocket attacks.
This report was most certainly not written to make a case for Israel holding to the military status quo. It may be that in the end the Israeli government’s obligation to protect its citizens and develop strong deterrence mandates significant action in Gaza without delay.
What has been demonstrated here, however, is the absolutely complexity of the issues involved in making that decision. Incredibly, with all of the above, there are still other factors at play. Consider:
Any Israeli military action in Gaza right now will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood position in Egypt. But it is, indubitably, in Israel’s best interest to strengthen Egypt’s military regime, which would be the most stable and the most likely to retain the peace treaty with Israel. Egyptian elections are slated to be held in November. Could it be that a major action in Gaza should wait until after those elections?
A purported “cease fire” with Islamic Jihad, which is being discussed (a planned escalated action by Israel has been table for the moment), is patently a sham. The terrorists will start firing whenever they choose. However, that “cease fire” is being negotiated by Egypt’s military leaders. In the weeks before that election, is it prudent to give them the edge, and allow them the prestige of showing they are players of significance in the region?
Were Israel to undertake a major military mission in Gaza, its primary target would be the ruling power, which is Hamas. But what are the consequences of taking out or severely weakening Hamas at this juncture? At one time, a decision to do so might have seemed a “no-brainer.” But the situation has shifted.
If background information is correct, and Hamas has fallen out of favor with Iran, to be replaced by Islamic Jihad, it may be that Hamas is no longer the worst of what must be dealt with in Gaza. It is possible that taking down Hamas would open the door for an even more virulent terrorist group to gain control. If the military wins in Cairo, and Hamas falls under its sway, it certainly will not become an ally of Israel, but it might be a great deal less problematic than an Islamic Jihad under the sway of Iran.
This brings us, then, full circle, to the issue of a Fatah-Islamic Jihad alliance. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, sitting in Ramallah, may project a far more moderate stance than do the Islamic leaders in Gaza. But in the end, his goal of the destruction of Israel is no different. Any thinking person who had until recently still held out hope against hope that Abbas in the end would act for peace has certainly been disabused of this notion by his UN gambits.
Over and over we have heard about a Hamas-Fatah unity government. In spite of the fact that it would have served purposes for both parties, it has never held because of the inherent rivalry and animosity between them.
But if Islamic Jihad, with which Fatah has a history of alliance, were the major factor in Gaza? What would be the PA stance then?
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