Fatah and Hamas Searching for Ways to Collaborate Again

According to IDF analysts, the cessation of Fatah activity against Hamas in Judea and Samaria may indicate a move towards cooperation.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

A joint Fatah-Hamas show of force (archive)
A joint Fatah-Hamas show of force (archive)

Despite the complete Hamas takeover of Gaza and the Fatah suppression of Hamas in Judea and Samaria, the two Palestinian Authority terrorist organizations may be moving towards a renewed cooperation. While there was heavy violence and mutual accusations of illegitimacy, IDF analysts now detect a cessation of Fatah activity against Hamas in Judea and Samaria.
Abbas seems to have ceased anti-Hamas efforts in areas still under his control.

The intelligence assessment was presented on Tuesday to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee by Brigadier General Ronen Cohen of IDF Intelligence. IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was also on hand to discuss the intelligence report, after having received a subcommittee study regarding the training of the military's officer corps.

"Despite the brutal process Gaza has gone through," Brig. Gen. Cohen told the Knesset committee, "Hamas aspires to return to a dialogue with regional Arab states, such as Egypt and Syria, as well as with [PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas]."

For his part, Abbas seems to have ceased anti-Hamas efforts in areas still under his control, Cohen reported: "The Palestinian Authority acted during the first few days [after the Hamas coup in Gaza] against the Hamas in Judea and Samaria. That activity has declined in recent days, until we see no further activity in that direction."

Chief of Staff Ashkenazi added his own comments during the intelligence briefing, saying, "Over time, a situation of dialogue between Abu Mazen [Abbas] and [Hamas's Damascus-based chief Khaled] Mashaal will develop, with the two organizations finding a way to maintain contact, as they have a common national interest."

General Ashkenazi noted that the military was not surprised by the events in Gaza last month, as "it was clear that there would be further rounds between Fatah and Hamas." The ongoing internecine warfare flared into the Hamas takeover of Gaza despite the short-lived unity government Fatah and Hamas had established just a few months earlier.

"According to the IDF Intelligence Division's assessment," Brig. Gen. Cohen explained, "preparations can be made for the existence of two [PA] entities for a long period of time. In central Gaza, Hamas is now in control, with an Islamic regime that will try to prove to the people that it is not corrupt and that it is attentive to the private citizen. The primary challenge of Hamas is stable internal security in the Strip."

As Hamas establishes itself further in Gaza, the IDF intelligence officer continued, "its ability to transmit information, money and weapons will grow and it will increase its military strength. The long-term goal of Hamas is to spread the Islamic regime over the Gaza Strip."

As for outside Gaza, Brig. Gen. Cohen said, "In our estimation, Hamas can rejuvenate
"The long-term goal of Hamas is to spread the Islamic regime over the Gaza Strip." - Brig. Gen. Cohen
itself in Judea and Samaria. It mustn't be forgotten that [Hamas] won the elections in all of the large cities [of those regions], and that, at the moment, what prevents the entrenchment of Hamas in Judea and Samaria are IDF and General Security Services (GSS) operations, carried out over the years."

As Hamas tries to stabilize the situation it has created, according to IDF Intelligence, the terrorist organization has decided on a policy of limited attacks around and in the Gaza region. Such attacks include roadside bomb detonations and gunfire primarily targeting military positions and outposts.

Despite the apparent lessening of tensions between Fatah and Hamas, Israeli and PA security officials met on Monday, after a two year hiatus, to "discuss how to move forward with security cooperation," according to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisen.