According to Israeli security apparatus estimates, there’s a significant chance that Hamas will win the municipal elections in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza by a landslide, severely weakening the PLO dominated Palestinian Authority and compromising Israeli security. The municipal elections are set to take place on October 8, in close proximity to the international peace conference in Europe, which means Israel is less likely to step in to block the vote, even if it wanted to. Also, doing so would thwart the only back to back democratic event to have ever existed in the territories Israel conceded in the Oslo Accord — that the 2012 municipal elections be followed in an orderly and legal fashion by the 2016 municipal elections.
However, according to Israeli media, many in the PLO leadership are leaning on PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to postpone or cancel the municipal elections, fearing a repeat of the 2006 parliamentary elections in which Hamas defeated the PLO and a year later forcibly exiled Abbas and his PA from Gaza.
It should be noted that the Oslo Accords forbid the participation of terror organizations in PA elections, but Hamas has already set a precedence in 2006, and today’s PA is even weaker and less popular than it was ten years ago. Abbas may not be able to push the date, much less cancel the vote, because such a move could result in riots across the PA.
The city of Shechem is a clear example of the PA Chairman’s loss of control over the security situation in much of the area under his authority. According to Israeli media, the PA no longer rules in Shechem, which is mired in anarchy that could spread to other cities, most likely to Hebron, already considered a bastion of Hamas. Shechem today is being ruled by about 100 armed gangsters, belonging to both political and criminal groups. This month there have been bloody confrontations between PA security forces and the armed locals, resulting in four dead, two of them police.
Senior PLO sources have told Israeli media that Mahmoud Abbas has lost interest in local security issues under his care, and the man in charge is his chief aide, Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, who also controls the intelligence reports reaching Abbas’ desk.
Hamas has recently published a propaganda video showing the Gaza Strip as a kind of Paradise, with large parks, luxury buildings, a sassy nightlife, and shopping areas. It also features Gaza residents holding up signs saying, “Thank you, Hamas.” Will PA voters fall for this propaganda? Probably not. They will not vote for Hamas because they are unaware of the poverty and destruction that permeate the Gaza Strip, they’ll vote for Hamas because they perceive it as more anti-Israel and less corrupt than the PLO.
Israeli pundits believe the big winners from a Hamas win in the PA would be Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), who would benefit from the decisions of alarmed Israeli voters. Which is why Prime Minister Netanyahu should be invested in making it harder for Hamas candidates to win in the PA. Mass arrests of Hamas activists could be the way to go — risking international condemnation, naturally, but too much might be at stake for the Israeli PM to care.