War More Likely After Hamas Election Outcome

Yerushalayim (Yoni Ariel/TPS) – Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is the acting PM while Netanyahu is in Washington, has said that the election of Yayiya Sinwar as the new leader of Hamas’ Gaza makes the next round of fighting all but inevitable.

Mohammed Def, leader of the Hamas military wing, completed his de facto takeover of Gaza, with the election of his close ally Yahiya Sinwar as the new political leader of Gaza. Yahiya Sinwar is replacing Ismail Haniya, who is expected to succeed retiring Haled Mashal as the movement’s international leader.

Sinwar’s victory was first reported by Al Jazeera, which has established contacts with Hamas. Other Arab sources have since confirmed the reports.

Until now, the Hamas military wing, Azadin a’ Qassam, has been subordinate to the movement’s civilian leadership. This now seems to have changed, and for the first time, Israel will have to deal with a Hamas, in which the militants are calling the shots.

Sinwar, who topped the list of prisoners Hamas wanted released as part of the Shalit prisoner exchange, is considered a violent thuggish extremist even by Hamas standards. He is responsible for dozens of attacks against Israel, and opposes any talk of compromise. He is also a radical Islamist, who supports draconian punishments, including execution for Gazans convicted of even minor infractions of Sharia (Islamic law).

For several weeks, there has been talk of the renewed likelihood of another war, fueled by estimates that the military wing has been poised to take over the political leadership in Gaza as well. Sinwar’s victory proves these forecasts were accurate.

Sinwar is likely to initiate an operation aimed at kidnapping as many Israelis as possible, either civilians or soldiers. He will probably want to achieve an advantageous prisoner exchange deal, so as to secure the release of as many hardcore experienced terrorists as possible, to rebuild the movement’s infrastructure and enable it to embark on a massive Second Intifada style terror campaign that will enable it to both achieve success against Israel, and overthrow the PA and take over the West Bank as well. He believes kidnappings are the best way to make such an exchange deal.

Haniya was also considered a relative extremist, but ultimately accepted Mashal’s leadership, and acted in accordance with his and the bureau’s decisions. Whether Haniya, assuming he succeeds Mashal, will be able to exert a similar degree of control over Sinwar, is unclear.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has said more than once that if he were Defense Minister, he would initiate an invasion of Gaza aimed at eliminating Hamas and installing an alternative administration in Gaza, has refused to comment on this development. When asked if this development could be helpful in enabling Israel to eliminate and replace Hamas, his spokesperson Zahi Moshe said: “we do not respond this way, when we have something to say, we will say it.”

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