(March 14, 2018 / Israel Hayom / Exclusive to JNS)
Sitting in his office in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas surely must have pondered his own possible fate had he—instead of his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah—been the one visiting Gaza on Tuesday. Would he also have survived the assassination attempt? Would the perpetrators have placed “only” one bomb on the side of the road? Would they have allowed him to return home in one piece?
Here we have one more reason for Abbas to postpone any further trips to Gaza and to pause before hailing illusory reconciliation with Hamas. It is also safe to assume that Abbas hasn’t forgotten or forgiven Hamas for overthrowing him in Gaza in 2007, when members of the terrorist organization seized control of the strip by ruthlessly killing a large number of Fatah officials working there. Some of them were thrown off buildings.
Hamas, in step with its usual modus operandi, rushed to distance itself from the assassination attempt and harshly condemned it. It even boasted that it had arrested those responsible and, as always, pointed an accusatory finger at Israel—as if it could have been behind such a clumsy, amateurish attack. However, as Israel repeatedly declares every time a rocket is launched at it from Gaza, whether Hamas or one of the recalcitrant terrorist groups operating under its supervision is behind the assassination attempt, responsibility ultimately falls on Hamas’s shoulders as the sovereign power in the strip.
Hamas isn’t really interested in advancing intra-Palestinian reconciliation. At the same time, it wants the P.A.’s help to boost Gaza’s sputtering economy. After all, the purpose of Hamdallah’s visit to Gaza was to further a sewage treatment and water delivery project.
For this reason alone, it’s unreasonable to assume Hamas was behind the assassination attempt—if indeed that was the purpose of the attack, rather than to simply intimidate or send a threatening message to Ramallah.
What’s more, Hamdallah and Majed Faraj, the P.A. intelligence chief, are not important enough to justify the investment in killing them, and certainly not in a manner that could lead back to Hamas. We can safely surmise, therefore, that a wayward faction in Gaza, likely with Islamic State affiliations, was behind the attack.
Either way, it is evident that Hamas’s rule is a complete failure—not just in the economic and social realms, but even when it comes to security, its pride and joy.
To be sure, an attempt to assassinate a visiting P.A. prime minister, who is in Gaza under the protection of Hamas, is quite significant. Moreover, one must wonder: If Hamas is incapable of protecting its guests, how can it protect its own leaders and commanders?
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.