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Shalom Harari: 'Palestinians Are Wracked By Confusion After Hamas Victory: Potential Is Growing For Violent Power Struggle'

'Hamas May Now Prefer Two-Headed System - A Moderate Mahmoud Abbas & Fatah Facing Outside World While Hamas Consolidates Its Control Over Government & Parliament'

'Egypt, Jordan & Even Syria Have Been Shocked By Hamas Victory Because They Are Also Threatened By Islamic Fundamentalists'

Hamas (Aljazeera)

Shalom Harari, a top Israeli expert on the Palestinians, analyzes the new emerging situation after the stunning Hamas victory in the Palestinian election. Interviewed by IsraCast, Harari says the Hamas rise to power has implications far beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Harari is a reserve Brigadier-General in the IDF intelligence corps and is on the staff of the Counter-Terror Policy Center at the Herzliya Inter-Disciplinary Institute. Listen to the impact of the Hamas victory on Palestinian society, Israel, the Middle East and the international arena.

How is Hamas reacting to the unprecedented wave of criticism demanding that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, halt the terrorism and negotiate peace?

Harari says that Hamas will not recognize Israel or give up their weapons. Therefore, Hamas may prefer a ‘double-headed system’. Hamas would let Fatah represent Palestinians to the outside world while Hamas consolidates its control over the government and parliament. In addition, Hamas would take control over all the security forces. Hamas is aware that an internal Palestinian eruption would turn bloody.

What are the implications for Israel? Is Hamas likely to keep the lid on terrorism?

‘Maybe for a while at least’ says Harari. Hamas realizes the whole world now expects them to be more responsible; they understand they cannot sit in government and run terrorism at the same time. But Harari adds: “Although there not be any direct Hamas terrorism, they may run terrorism ‘under the table’ as they have in the past or help the Islamic Jihad and Tanzeem in launching their attacks.”

Israel’s Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has put on hold a decision on whether Israel should transfer customs and tax money to the Palestinian Authority after the Hamas victory. What should Israel decide about it?

Harari believes that as long as Mahmoud Abbas is in charge and has not delivered anything to Hamas, then Israel should transfer the funds. Moreover, it will take weeks if not months to form the new Hamas government. However, when it is, Israel will have to reconsider if Mahmoud Abbas becomes head of a Hamas administration. One consideration could be whether the Palestinian security forces remain under Abbas’s control or under Hamas. Harari believes an Israeli decision will not be made before the Israeli election on March 28th.

Hamas threat to Israel’s neighbors: The rise of Hamas has shocked Egypt, Jordan and even Syria where the Muslim Brothers Movement (like Hamas) also exist. Hamas is also present in the U.S. and Europe under other names. This movement threatens to ‘shake’ the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian governments that are all annoyed by what has happened in the Palestinian election. Hamas is much more religious than Fatah and during the election campaign, Fatah had to change its rhetoric of recent years and revert to what Harari calls ‘jihadistic’ terminology. Oddly enough, he notes that in an open letter during the election campaign, Fatah’s Marwan Barghutti who is serving an Israeli prison term, for sending suicide bombers, referred to jihad in the election campaign, although Hamas itself did not.

If until now the international community has viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a local dispute between two ethnic groups over borders and territory, and not part of the global camapign against World Jihad and al Qaeda, is this likely to change now after the Hamas victory?

Harari has no doubt that Hamas images will infuence many people in the West to now see it in this new light. He notes that Hamas itself is the biggest Islamist movement that exists worldwide. Hamas also views itself as part of the jihad movement all over the world. However, Hamas leaders say: ‘We specialize here in Palestine and that’s why we don’t carry out operations in Europe and other places’

David Essing

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