Hamas is-firmly-in-power-but-it-has-yet-to-deliverNine years ago this month, the security forces of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Gaza Strip suffered an embarrassing, debilitating defeat. In a matter of days, combined Hamas forces, including the military arm, the Qassam Brigades, and the more numerous Carabinieri forces of the Tanfizzia routed the alphabet soup of Palestinian security and intelligence forces led by Mohammad Dahlan.

No one was more surprised than Hamas officials at the complete dissolution of the Fatah-led military command in Gaza after months of escalating skirmishes. During the June 2007 battles, the surprising collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA) forces encouraged local Hamas commanders to shut off their mobile phones, cutting communication with Hamas’ less aggressive political leadership.

Freed from the cautionary counsel of the exiled politburo led by Khaled Meshal, Hamas commanders rolled all over Gaza, achieving a complete military victory, the consequences of which are still being felt by Gaza’s long-suffering population of 1.8 million.

A new chapter

Hamas’ assumption of power in Gaza opened a new chapter in the political history of the modern Middle East.

Years before the Arab Spring exploded throughout the region, an avowedly Islamic party joined to the Muslim Brotherhood now ruled in Gaza.

ince then, and notwithstanding serial conflicts with Israel, Hamas’ hold on Gaza has been consolidated. Fatah and its cadre have removed Gaza’s administration. Abbas, who rarely travels anywhere in Palestine outside Ramallah, refuses to visit.

No one questions that the Israeli army could occupy Gaza. The key point, however, is that Israel, after weighing the pros and cons of such a move, has chosen to leave Gaza to Hamas. Almost a decade after it came to power, Hamas rules all but unchallenged.

Despite the obstacles placed in its path, Hamas has achieved an historic victory. But in a hundred years, no one will remember either Hamas nor Fatah.

Historians will instead record that, for the first time in modern Palestine, a real Palestinian army was created in Gaza that fights Israel, controls territory, and, at a great and continuing cost, deters its enemies.

Respect for Hamas

Israel vows that the next war will be Hamas’ last, but in the meantime, it has evolved a respect for Hamas forces and a practical preference for Hamas’ continued rule in Gaza over the claims of all others, including its nominal peace partners in the PLO and Fatah.

Israel has left Gaza, but it has not left Gaza alone. Hamas rules with Israel’s forbearance, but Israel has no interest in enabling Hamas or Gaza to enjoy the fruits of its victory.

Determined to assure that Gazans be permanently kept on the cusp of economic and environmental implosion, Israel, with the pained acquiescence of much of the international community, has confronted Hamas with an unending series of economic and humanitarian crises that constantly test the movement’s political staying power and popularity.

Such difficulties – from the draconian siege that has engineered the destruction of Gaza’s productive economy and made 70 percent of the population dependent upon international assistance, to a border regime maintained by Israel and Egypt that has transformed Gaza into an open air prison – aim at destroying Hamas’ popular support, an objective that incredibly has yet to be achieved.

Israel has left Gaza, but it has not left Gaza alone. Hamas rules with Israel’s forbearance, but Israel has no interest in enabling Hamas or Gaza to enjoy the fruits of its victory.

Determined to assure that Gazans be permanently kept on the cusp of economic and environmental implosion, Israel, with the pained acquiescence of much of the international community, has confronted Hamas with an unending series of economic and humanitarian crises that constantly test the movement’s political staying power and popularity.

Such difficulties – from the draconian siege that has engineered the destruction of Gaza’s productive economy and made 70 percent of the population dependent upon international assistance, to a border regime maintained by Israel and Egypt that has transformed Gaza into an open air prison – aim at destroying Hamas’ popular support, an objective that incredibly has yet to be achieved.