In the wake of the Israeli pullout from Gaza last September, prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians faded rapidly. Although Israel praised Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas for negotiating a cease-fire with Gaza's militant groups hoping to increase his political leverage, Abbas has thus far failed -- predictably -- to undertake any tangible steps towards disarmament, and the deteriorating situation is only compounded by the mounting political power of terror groups like Hamas.
While sources close to Abbas had indicated that he would explain the PA's plan to disarm militant groups to President Bush prior to his October 20th visit to Washington, Abbas later announced that he had no intention of disarming Hamas or any other militant group. Such duplicity on Abbas’ part only helps to fuel terror attacks like the October 26th suicide bombing in Hadera, Israel, by a resident of the West Bank, in which several Israelis were killed. That evening, three thousand Palestinians gathered in Kabatiya, West Bank, the bomber's home, to celebrate the bombing, chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great).
Thus far, Israel's reward for giving up the Gaza buffer zone has been more terror. Besides the aforementioned suicide bombing, terrorists in Gaza have fired Kassam rockets into Israel and they have killed three young Israelis in an October 16th drive-by shooting. 
Mr. Abbas' so-called strategy for calming the chaotic situation in Gaza, fueled by the violent activities of at least twelve militant groups, centers around the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections, which are scheduled for January 2006. Abbas hopes that once militant groups are “brought into the political establishment,” it will be easier to exert authority over the various rival factions, and thereby bring an end to the instability in Gaza. And in fact, 12 Palestinian terror groups have signed a “code of honor” in which they promised to recognize and respect the results of the upcoming elections, and refrain from using weapons during the election campaign. Apparently, this so-called “code of honor” does not restrict these groups from murdering Israelis.
For its part, the terror group, Hamas, has refused to sign such a code of honor, stating that the code included a provision prohibiting the use of mosques as platforms during the election campaign. Whether “legitimate” or not, Hamas is growing in political strength, and both Israel’s opposition to Hamas and Bush’s recent concession to Abbas, accepting the participation of Hamas in the upcoming vote, are immaterial considering that Hamas is already an established part of the political process.
In January 2005, in the first-ever municipal elections held in Gaza, Hamas won seats in 7 of the 10 councils, and won 76 out of the 118 seats available. These victories greatly increased Hamas' popularity, while preventing Abbas’ party, Fatah, from increasing its strength. The upcoming elections will most likely witness an increase in Hamas' strength in the ruling Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), to the detriment of Fatah and Abbas.
In short, Hamas’ intentions are not democratic at all. The upcoming elections are means to control Gaza absolutely by winning a majority of seats in the PLC. Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, stated that the “greater goal is not elections. The narrow interest of Hamas is for there to be no elections at all because the Palestinian Authority cannot manage anything and our popularity as a movement is rising all the time.”
The upcoming elections are simply an unabashed power grab by Hamas, and Abbas appears powerless to stop it. Nor is he able to follow through with his previous promises to disarm Fatah’s own militant group, the Al-Aqsa Brigades. His inaction has allowed others to ignore the supposed cease-fire. Following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Islamic Jihad terrorists launched terror attacks, forcing Israel to defend itself by killing Islamic Jihad's field commander in Gaza, Shadi Mohammed and his deputy, Mohammed Ghazaineh.
What Israel now has on its hands is a clear security threat, since Gaza, once a buffer zone, has become a haven for terrorists. Israel wants to prevent the entry of terrorists into Gaza, and insists on the presence of European inspectors at the (Rafah) border crossing, along with cameras. But the PA is unwilling to allow Israel even this measure of security, only agreeing to European “instructors” and offering to transfer footage from the crossing once a day, without any direct radio broadcasts to Israeli authorities. 
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed Abbas’ failure to meet any of the conditions for peace, stating “Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority is not taking any serious steps in, and is not serious about, the struggle against terrorism. Therefore, we decided and agreed that we will continue the struggle against terrorism in all its aspects ... if the PA does not take serious and tangible action against terrorism, there will be no diplomatic progress ... In such a situation, I will not meet with Abu Mazen and the Palestinians are losing all of their national dreams due to this situation.” And according to the Jerusalem Post, “We [Israel] will not reach peace with the current Palestinian leadership-we have to wait until the next generation.”
Many in the world are eager to help bring stability to the region, and the PA has received generous aid for years. British Treasurer Gordon Brown, seen by some as the successor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, recently stated that “he would visit the Middle East next month to look at ways to rebuild Palestinian infrastructure.” Brown is hopeful that “tackling poverty and unemployment would bring stability to the region.” To that end, he has held talks with the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, and the Israeli Finance Ministry. But as history has repeatedly shown, such offerings are useless if Palestinian terrorists do not first disarm.
1. www.dailyalert.org 10/28/05, and Article, “PA has no intent to disarm terror groups,”
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 10/18-19/05
1. Mitnick, Joshua. “Abbas to discuss Gaza pullout with Bush.” Washington Times, 10/20/05.
2. Mitnick, Joshua. “Abbas-Bush meeting dismays Palestinians.” Washington Times, 10/22/05.
3. Welner, Michael. “The Jews of Gaza,” FrontPage Magazine, 1/17/05.
4. Kafala,Tarik. “Profile: Jibril Rajoub.” BBC News Online, 3/25/02.
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