Hamas' coup in Gaza was staged in view of what the organization saw as the decline of the corrupt, Fatah-led Palestinian Authority; a decline Hamas believes began on the heels of the Oslo Accords.
While gearing up for action, Hamas' military wing was training and arming; and its religious wing was rallying up new recruits in the mosques. The subsequent road into the ranks of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades has never seemed more natural.
Meanwhile, the group's civilian wing was helping the group's political ranks establishing its various medical, welfare, educations and charity bureaus, thus helping Hamas take over labor unions and various associations and laying the necessary foundations for a Hamas state. Wining municipal elections and plenty of seats in the Palestinian parliament, seemed – again – as the natural progression of things.
The Palestinian public was also exposed to Hamas' military "accomplishments" – hundreds of Israelis were killed in various Hamas attacks, giving group leaders Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi popularity points. The Palestinian street wanted the "clean warriors" to take over for the corrupt ministers, making the coup an acceptable notion, especially in the Gaza Strip.
Rules of PlayThe halo of the clean warriors may have faded a little since they began running the Gaza show, but the Gaza administration has been running smoothly – despite the fact that many of the PA's bureaucrats refused to work under Hamas and the ongoing Israeli blockade on the Strip.
Hamas was quick to fill the vacancies with its own people. Thousands of people were contracted by the organization to help it run Gaza, and all are paid, in full, by the 27th of each month. Their West Bank counterparts usually see wage delays.
The anarchy which ruled Gaza's streets during the days of Fatah at the helm has gone. Despite frequent IDF strikes on the Strip, the people report the sense of personal and communal security has vastly improved. Not only are the armed militias off the streets, the violent clans seemed to have gone.
The majority of Gazans may not hold Hamas responsible for the Israeli blockade, but they do complain about the financial hardship which followed the takeover; the lack of everything but the basic necessities and the bias allocation of what little fuel and gas there are.
Political arrests rates in the Strip are on the rise, and are no longer perceived as retaliatory action to the arrests of Hamas operatives by Fatah officials in the West Bank. "The oppression is comprehensive," a Gaza human rights activist told Ynet. "Anyone resisting (Hamas') takeover on public establishments is arrested. They're taking over by sheer force, not by proxy of election," he added.
Preoccupied with the mundane? in the PA offices in Gaza (Archive photo: AP)
Peace can wait
Dealing with the day-to-day operation of the Strip, however, has rendered Hamas' warrior image weak. Many in Gaza would prefer to see Hamas return to full-fledged Jihad (holy war) rather than continuing it's dabbling in the mundane.
"They should oversee things and prevent corruption in the Palestinian Authority… but they should continue avenging the Zionist enemy and carrying out attacks. But they shouldn't run things," said a Gaza merchant.
Hamas supporters stress the corruption-free, reasonable effective administration the organization has stated in the Strip; attributing the goods' deficiencies to the Israeli-American persistence – joined, according to sources, by several Arab nations – to fight the possibility that an Islamic groups could ever prove a good ruler.
Hamas popularity does not seem to be declining despite the difficulties. The organization's military, civil and religious wings, and its tens of thousands of highly trains operative are too strong to just let it fade away; although many wish to see that happen. Hamas may be lose some of it's grip on Gaza Strip eventually, but its position as a key player in unshakable.
What will it take for Hamas to be toppled? "It would take an Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian Authority cooperation, both in the political avenue and the military one, including exacerbating the blockade and stopping all kinds of smugglings," a Gaza political commentator told Ynet.
The problem with that, he added, is that Hamas always manager to survive these maneuvers. The ones who end up paying the price are the Palestinian people.
The one thing everyone seem to agree on is that there is very little hope for peace. A peace treaty, they said, will not be made possible in the near future, 'not in this generation anyway.'