Hamas Islamic hardliners now dominate the Gaza Strip after a short and bloody showdown with Fatah, the rival Palestinian faction. Recall that Israel voluntarily left Gaza in 2005 and the next day Palestinians burned down four synagogues in abandoned Jewish settlements. Both Hamas and Fatah celebrated these travesties. Yet since Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006, more than 600 Palestinians have died in fierce internecine warfare between the two factions.
The Hamas victors have arrogantly proclaimed a new era of Islamic rule in Gaza, overturning Fatah's more secular rule. The future looks bleak for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who, now effectively exiled to the West Bank, was forced to dissolve the government and weakly call for new elections. Hamastan appears to be the new reality in Gaza, with Fatah in control in the West Bank.
How will America and Israel deal with this new development? The International Herald Tribune reported: "For two years, the United States tried to choke off Hamas, the militant Islamic group that has been ascendant in Gaza and the West Bank, while throwing limited aid and support to Fatah" (June 15, 2007). Since Washington has designated Hamas a terrorist organization with which it will not negotiate, American options appear severely limited.
How Israel will react is another matter. If Hamas continues its cross-border rocket and other attacks against Israeli settlements, military intervention seems almost certain—especially since the Israelis will no longer be constrained by concerns about undermining the authority of President Abbas. The Road Map to Peace has acquired more delaying detours than ever. (Sources: International Herald Tribune, Financial Times.)