PA & Israel’s policies against Hamas
A new Palestinian reality has emerged a short time after the 2006 elections, when Hamas seized control of Gaza and Fatah was in control of the West Bank. While the West Bank, which is exposed to a vicious attack of Judaization, is considered an important battleground against Israel, the Palestinian Authority has maintained cooperation with the Israeli occupation to fight Hamas, and prevent the transfer of its resistance model from Gaza to the West Bank.
In this context, this study addresses the policies of fighting Hamas on the part of both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, through five axes:
First: The reality experienced by Hamas in 12 years
Second: The PA and Israeli policies of targeting Hamas
Third: Intra-movement factors that contributed to weakening Hamas
Fourth: Stations that gave Hamas an opportunity to restore its organization
Fifth: Hamas’ key challenges and ways to overcome them.
First Axis: Summary of the reality experienced by the movement in 12 years
Since Hamas’ win of the Palestinian Legislative Council elections on January 25, 2006, which was followed by eruption of a state of security chaos in the Gaza Strip – which was partly a sign of election result denial – until the Islamic resistance movement declared its full control of the Gaza Strip, it has experienced difficult circumstances in the Gaza Strip – due to the blockade imposed on the enclave – and the West Bank – because of the security practices that targeted the movement’s cadres, university students, and institutions.
Second Axis: PA and Israeli policies of targeting Hamas
The attempts to fight Hamas have mainly targeted the movement’s funding; as all the projects related to its existence and integration with the community, depend on money. The Israeli occupation, as well as the Palestinian authority, continuously worked to stop anything that could support the resistance movement.
The strategy of targeting Hamas by the Palestinian Authority and Israel included four stages:
1- The repercussions of winning the 2006 elections, including two parts:
a) Before the formation of the government, where the Fatah movement boycotted the formation of a national unity government.
b) After announcing the formation of a Palestinian government, by inciting (the international community) against Hamas, and practicing pressures on the movement. On the other hand, the movement exerted great efforts to withstand these pressures.
2- Escalation and declaration of a state of emergency (2007): This stage included the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in Mecca, and the formation of a government of national unity. However, after the deterioration of the situation, Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency, targeting the cadres of Hamas and civil institutions as well as charities in the West Bank. This coincided with similar Israeli measures against Hamas, including: the arrest of Hamas lawmakers and the closure of NGOs and charities.
3- Adoption of a policy of drying up and stabilizing the new reality 2008-2010, where both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority used to target elements of the resistance, maintained closure of institutions, and worked to marginalize the presence of Hamas elements in the community or in locations of their activities, and impose community isolation on Hamas.
4- The post-2011 era: The Palestinian Authority maintained security coordination with Israel, arrested the resistance elements, and imposed restrictions on Hamas in all areas. Israel also continued its security campaigns, and maintained its policy of chasing the resistance elements, confiscating the movement’s funds, and demolishing their homes.
Third Axis: intra-movement factors that contributed to weakening Hamas
Key factors that contributed to weakening the Islamic Resistance (Hamas) included:
1- Lack of vision among the movement leaders on how to act in the West Bank.
2- Failure to prepare and equip the movement cadres with means to confront such a case of dual targeting (by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority).
3- The movement’s poor media performance
4- Abandonment of part of the Palestinian society and national factions from Hamas amid this repression.
5- Continued acts of deterrence and retaliation against Hamas by the Israeli occupation.
Fourth Axis: Stations that gave Hamas an opportunity to restore its organization in the West Bank.
Hamas has been able to catch its breath and restore its organization in the West Bank through several stations that helped to break the isolation imposed on the movement. Hamas was prominently present in several national occasions and events, including:
1- The Three Gaza Wars 2008, 2012, 2014.
2- The Arab Spring wave during the period 2011-2013.
3- The events of 2011 that included the “March of Return”, the reconciliation agreement in Qatar, and the completion of the prisoner swap.
4- Hamas participation in the prisoners’ strikes in the Israeli prisons 2012, 2014.
5- The movement’s student activity in universities.
6- Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem uprisings (Intifadas) 2013, 2014, 2015.
Fifth Axis: Key challenges and ways to overcome them
Key Challenges that face Hamas in the West Bank included:
1- The nature of relations between the members of the movement.
2- Absence of educational incubators for young people.
3- Targeting political and field leaders of the movement with continued detention.
4- Adherence to overt organizational traditions.
5- The ongoing arrests of movement student cadres and others.
6- Intimidation and threatening campaigns via telephone or mobile SMS by the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority.
In conclusion, the study states the following points:
1- Existence of close security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, which culminated during the period of the post-Palestinian division in 2007, with the aim of uprooting Hamas.
2- The intra-movement circumstances of Hamas contributed to weakening the movement.
3- Hamas faces an existential war and challenges in more than one geographical location. Therefore, the movement should find ways and means to act under successive blows, and ensure continued contacts with the movement’s grassroots despite the resulting security risks.