If Ariel Sharon thought that his plan to withdraw from Gaza would somehow moderate the views of the area’s Palestinians – then he should think again. A glance at the results of Gaza’s municipal elections held last week paints a terrifying picture of growing Islamist militancy and extremism in the strip.
It was, quite simply, a rout - with Hamas inflicting an overwhelming defeat on the Fatah party of newly-elected Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen). Hamas took 77 of the 118 seats that were up for grabs, which is nearly three times the 26 seats won by Fatah.
As a result, Hamas gained control over 7 of the 10 municipalities where balloting took place, including some of the largest Palestinian-controlled cities in the area such as Dir al-Balah. Of the 3 towns that Fatah won, 2 of them - Zahara and Al-Masder – have fewer than 1,000 residents.
Hamas spokesman were quick to assert that the tide of Palestinian public opinion has turned in their favor – and the results would seem to bear this out. If Abu Mazen couldn’t ride the momentum of his own recent victory at the polls to elicit a better showing at the municipal level in Gaza, then how would he possibly be able to assert control over the area should Israel go through with a withdrawal?
Worse yet – the election results indicate quite clearly that the bulk of Gaza Arabs support ongoing attacks against Israel. If they were opposed to Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on the Jewish state, then they surely would have expressed this at the ballot box. Fact is they didn’t.
What does all this mean? Well, to put it rather bluntly – it is just another darn good reason why Israel shouldn’t even consider withdrawing from Gaza. To do so would create a Hamas-dominated terror state just down the road from some of Israel’s major cities and population centers.
This is no longer just a matter of mere speculation – the numbers, as they say, speak for themselves.