Veteran Palestinian Authority affairs correspondent Pinchas Inbari, a researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, writes that Hamas has a realistic plan for a peaceful takeover of Judea and Samaria in the near future - and that Israel is not paying enough attention.
"Hamas has put an end to Fatah's job in Gaza," Inbari writes, "and is now waiting patiently for the next stage - mainly, its takeover of [Judea and Samaria]. Hamas plans this to occur after the completion of the Gilad Shalit deal, in which its central activists and arrested Parliament members are to be freed."
Shalit, an IDF corporal, was abducted by Hamas terrorists over two years ago and has been held, apparently in Gaza, since then. Hamas has demanded the release of up to 1,000 imprisoned terrorists for Shalit's freedom.
Hamas to Set Elections
"When Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] completes his term of office [as PA president, sometime in 2009 - ed.], the position is to go automatically to the Parliament head, who is a Hamas member," Inbari writes. "Under the circumstances, the chances are slim that there will be general elections, and practically, the question of elections will be decided totally by Hamas - which will only agree to elections that it will win."
In addition to the military boost Hamas will receive when its prisoners are returned, Hamas is also strong politically in Judea and Samaria, Inbari says. "Hamas won decisively in the last elections for municipal leaders, defeating [imprisoned-for-murder Fatah leader Marwan] Barghouti's men, and also winning in the second round of legislative council elections."
Safe Passage Will Make it Easier for Hamas to Conquer Yesha
Inbari says that Israel is ignoring these developments, and is actually working to make it easier for Hamas to take over:
"Israeli policy is attempting to connect [Judea/Samaria] with Gaza via the 'safe passage' [through the Kiryat Gat-Tarkumiye route, north of Hevron - ed.], under a joint Fatah-Hamas or 'neutral' technocratic government. However, this does not jibe with what is going on in the field, and could worsen the situation for Israel and even endanger the stability of Jordan. Connecting Gaza with [Judea/Samaria] will make it easier for Hamas to spread out into the latter, and this will endanger neighboring Jordan. A Hamas man, Said Hamam, already heads the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan."
Uprooting Jewish Towns is the First Step to Hamas Takeover
Inbari also warns against the apparent plan of the government to uproot many Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria and concentrate the remainder in crowded, narrow settlement blocs: "As we saw in Gush Katif, the uprooting of the Jewish towns there was the first step leading towards the Hamas takeover in Gaza, and even endangered Egypt - as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak admitted when he called the Disengagement a 'honey trap.' A similar process in [Judea and Samaria] will endanger the State of Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan."
Let Israel Not Interfere
Inbari says that if Israel conquers Gaza, it must not be in order to give it to Fatah: "There are leading members in Kadima and Labor who have close ties with Fatah, and who are liable to weave plans... for the IDF to conquer Gaza in order to return it to Fatah rule. We must be very careful not to do this. Whether or not the IDF intervenes in Gaza must be decided only based on considerations of Israeli security, and not on interference in the internal Palestinian maze, the end of which we cannot know."