A violent raid by Israel would lead to a lot of civilian casualties, and create a lot of bitterness and anger. Hamas would seem to be the outlet for this rage, so the organisation quickly recoups whatever it has lost. Also, the inability and unwillingness of Fatah to do anything, while Hamas at least wages the appearance of a fightback, would further strengthen the terrorists in Gaza.
It seems this is coming true more quickly than expected:
The Islamic movement Hamas is taking over from Fatah, the party created by Yasser Arafat, as the main Palestinian national organisation as a result of the war in Gaza, says a leading Fatah militant. "We have moved into the era of Hamas which is now much stronger than it was," said Husam Kadr, a veteran Fatah leader in the West Bank city of Nablus, recently released after five-and-a-half years in Israeli prisons.
"Its era started when Israel attacked Gaza on 27 December."
The sharp decline in support for Fatah and the discrediting of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, because of his inertia during the 22-day Gaza war, will make it very difficult for the US and the EU to pretend that Fatah are the true representatives of the Palestinian community. The international community is likely to find it impossible to marginalise Hamas in reconstructing Gaza.
"Hamas has been highly successful in portraying itself as the party of the resistance, and Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas as the opponents of resistance at a time [when] the public wants to resist," said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian minister of planning. He adds that Mr Abbas was badly damaged in the eyes of Palestinians when he blamed Hamas for Israel's assault on Gaza in the conflict's first two days. (2)
The bottom line is that those who cheer on Israel's violevnce in Gaza haven't really got Israel's best interests at heart. Ultimately, only facing up to the issue of the refugees, reparations and dismantling settlements will make Israel safe. As Bruce Anderson pointed out (3) in the Independent a few days ago, the likelihood of Israel being confronted, in the course of the next hundred years, with an enemy armed with something more than a few feeble rockets and suicide bombers is very real. The current Israeli governments are setting their country on the road towards that disaster.
The resort to violence must be viscerally satisfying for a nation under attack - a mentality develops where a vioelnt response is required. Unfortunately, as is being shown in real time in Gaza, this doesn't really work. Both sides are locked up in it, their hatred and anger feeding off each other. Israel, as an organised, unitary nation, has the best opportunity to do somthing to break the cycle. Does she have the leaders? It seems unlikely. Most of the major parties vary only in a few degrees in their intransigance. They know that taking any real action against the West Bank settlements will hand power over to their opponents.
Could a united front be developed, where all parties agree to a set policy on the Palestinian issue and the West Bank settlements? I mean, a sensible one, involving the dismantling of the settlements. This would be worlkable, but it would require all the major parties to admit their policy until now has been wrong. Again, it is hard to see this happening. Israeli politicians aren't any different to any other politicians - some are bound to see the advantages in breaking ranks.
It worked for Ariel Sharon, after all.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/fisk-on-israeli-invasion.html
2 - "Fatah fears Gaza conflict has put Hamas in the ascendancy," by Patrick Cockburn, published in The Independent, 23rd of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/fatah-fears-gaza-conflict-has-put-hamas-in-the-ascendancy-1513430.html)
3 - "Israel is in danger of fighting the last war, not the next one," by Bruce ANderson, published in The Independent, 5th of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/bruce-anderson/bruce-anderson-israel-is-in-danger-of-fighting-the-last-war-not-the-next-one-1225816.html)