February 20, 2006:
Having, through their own bungling, lost the recent Palestinian Authority (PA) elections to the more radical Hamas group, members of the Fatah movement, who have long dominated the "government" of the Palestinian authority, are now preparing to leave office. In addition to stashing away whatever stray funds that have hitherto escaped their grafting, they are also spending a lot of time and energy shredding documents. In addition to the need to destroy any paper trails regarding their long history of corruption, they are also trying to insure that no paperwork survives regarding covert negotiations and deals with Israel, the U.S., and other countries, which might be held against them. And finally, perhaps most importantly, they are desperate to destroy any evidence that Al Fatah was engaged in anti-Hamas activity, some of which involved tipping off the Israelis about potential attacks or about the location of Hamas leaders.
Meanwhile, Israel is also preparing to deal with a Palestinian government run by Islamic terrorists (Hamas). Israel has many non-military weapons to use against Hamas. First, there is money. Israel, which control the borders, collects $50 million a month in customs (and similar) taxes for the Palestinians. Handing that money over to Hamas is very unpopular in Israel, and it may become politically impossible to do so. Hamas would have to convince the Israeli population that Hamas is not going to launch another terror offensive, before that money gets released regularly.
Israel also controls the movement of all goods and people into Gaza and the West Bank. Israel could reduce the flow of goods to the bare minimum necessary for maintaining life. In effect, turning the West Bank and Gaza into huge prison camps.
Hamas appears to be aware of the powerful position Israel is in. Hamas has observed the year long truce, but Hamas has a basic creed that calls for Israel to be destroyed. Working around that will not be easy, especially since Hamas has the support of Iran and al Qaeda in that goal. Hamas is also composed of many factions, some of which are really, really extreme. These groups want to impose Taliban like restrictions on the Palestinian population. The majority of Palestinians want nothing to do with this, and have been quite open about those attitudes. The factionalism of Hamas will create newt under pressure because Hamas is running the government. Hamas now has the power to make rules and enact laws. The old school Hamas factions are already talking about what rules and laws they want enacted. This is not going to be pretty, except for those who wish Hamas ill.