The Powerless Palestinian Authority
The IDF operations in Gaza continue apace as the new northern front opened by the Hizballah cross-border attacks continues to deepen further into Lebanon. In the heart of Gaza, the Gaza City offices of the PA Foreign Ministry were bombed in an Israeli Air Force strike, leaving the third and fourth floors completely destroyed. In the face of the turmoil, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to resign his presidency and dissolve the Palestinian Authority in a telephone call to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Early in the Israeli incursion, the PA Interior Ministry building was repeatedly struck, sending a message to the Hamas terror operatives in Gaza conveying Israel’s seriousness. Addressing Gaza terrorists today, Israel launched an airstrike on Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’ terrorist core, Izz al-Din Qassam. He was not killed, but remains paralyzed after over four hours of surgery. It was the fourth time Deif survived an Israeli airstrike.
This time, the strikes on the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry building was a message to those outside Gaza supporting and directing them and their activities.
Hamas has been clearly taking direction from the group’s Damascus headquarters, where it operates under the direct influence of Iran as well as their host, Syria. The same can be said of Hizballah, also hosting its headquarters in Assad’s Damascus. The United States understands this unambiguously, as a direct statement was made from the White House today holding both Syria and Iran responsible for the recent Hizballah attacks.
Because of this Damascus direction, the Gaza-based PA Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has been rendered powerless and the Hamas terrorists attacking Israel and the IDF have ignored his calls – if those calls are to be taken as sincere - for the release of abducted IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit. The relentless IDF operations and subsequent assassination of Hamas operatives and the pursuit and arrests of Hamas elected officials have driven the Hamas government largely underground, rendering them invisible for much of the time and without influence when they appear.
But this effect of powerlessness has not only immobilized Hamas, it transcends the Palestinian Territories and grips Fatah and their principle elected official, President Mahmoud Abbas, as well. While the Gaza-based Hamas faction of the PA government has little to no control over the pace and scope of the terrorist attacks due to Damascus direction, Abbas now has no one to push for negotiations with. Pushing for negotiations with Israel was the cause for his latest rise in influence and popularity in the face of the Hamas-run government. But with the Hamas leadership largely underground, he now presides over an even more broken and ineffectual government.
Though Abbas threatened resignation and dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, the United States will surely seek a way to convince him to remain and weather the storm. For, as Hamas has proven, Abbas is the most acceptable negotiating partner in the Palestinian Territories’ stable of leaders. Were Abbas to resign, it is unlikely that a more relatively reasonable figure will emerge in his place of leadership.