Terrorists, Inc. (Updated)

The Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority underscored its terrorist nature by placing one of the more notorious terrorists in charge of its new Islamist security forces. Jamal Abu Samhadana, whose track record includes the murder of US Marines in Gaza during a diplomatic mission, will create and command the new force:

The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority on Thursday named a guerrilla leader whose group has attacked Israel, and has been blamed for bombing a U.S. convoy, to head a new security force made up of Islamic militants.
Interior Minister Saed Siyam issued a decree appointing Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committees, as director general of his ministry. Abu Samhadana, a former security officer who was dismissed for refusing to report for duty during the uprising against Israel, was given the rank of colonel.
His group is responsible for many of the homemade rockets launched at Israel in recent weeks. It also is suspected by some of involvement in the attack on a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza that killed three Marine security guards in October 2003.

In case anyone doubted the nature of this regime, Hamas has just made it clear. They will recast the Palestinian protostate into an Islamist rogue nation, complete with Islamofascist terrorists as an arm of government oppression and aggression. The selection of Samhadana has to be seen as a deliberate slap at the West, especially the US. However, the Hamas embrace for Islamist terror confirms everything that the US has claimed about the new Palestinian government. It also provides yet another diplomatic embarrassment for Russia, if they even have the capability of experiencing shame any longer.
The US should immediately challenge Qatar and Saudi Arabia for their support of this regime and their funding of its operations. We need to make clear that those people who participated in the murder of our Marines while on a mission of peace — remember that the diplomatic mission was to help the Palestinians in Gaza! — will never comprise any government with which we will engage. Those Marines and their families deserve that much for their sacrifice. We should point out that nations who pay the salaries of those murderers will not be viewed as friends by the US.
Addendum: I find it interesting that the Washington Post put this report on page A16. Doesn’t the creation of an Islamist terrorist force by the PA, headed by a man responsible for the murders of three Marines, justify a little more visibility than that? I do have to commend the Post for at least reporting the development; so far the LA Times couldn’t be bothered, and the New York Times puts the issue of the murdered Marines below the “friction” Samhadana’s appointment and the Islamist force will create with Mahmoud Abbas. Also, the NYT never quite gets around to mentioning that the force will comprise Islamist terrorists — instead, it calls them “militants”. All the news that fits our mindset, eh?
UPDATE: Abbas has issued a veto in no uncertain terms:

In their sharpest power dispute yet, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday blocked Hamas’ plans to set up a shadow security force, which was to be made up of militants and to be headed by the No. 2 on
Israel’s wanted list.
Abbas issued a presidential decree vetoing the decisions made a day earlier by Interior Minister Said Siyam of Hamas. As president, Abbas wields considerable power and has the right to approve or reject key appointments. …
In a letter to Haniyeh on Friday, Abbas wrote that “we have learned through the media that the interior minister issued decisions violating the law. ”
“All the officers, soldiers and security personnel are asked not to abide by these decisions and to consider them non-existent,” Abbas said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

That may solve the surface problem, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the Palestinians voted into power an Islamofascist terror operation that will use the organs of the PA to expand its holy war on Israel and the West.

Hamas: Winning Friends In The Middle East

Hamas has certainly built an impressive track record at the helm of the Palestinian Authority. Just when no one thought they could possibly do worse than the kleptocrats of Fatah that robbed the Palestinians blind for a decade, Hamas has created a nostalgia for the previous government in less than two months. After having their aid cut off and impoverishing their people through diplomatic isolation with the West, Hamas has busied itself by alienating their closest Arab neighbor:

Palestinian officials have criticised Jordan’s decision to cancel a visit to Amman by Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahhar of the Hamas militant group.
Amman announced it had postponed the trip indefinitely after discovering arms and explosives it said were smuggled into Jordan by Hamas members.
It said this was proof that Hamas had been saying one thing and doing another in its dealings with Jordan. …
Jordanian officials said the weapons were seized in the last couple of days and included “missiles, explosives and automatic weapons”.

Jordan expelled Hamas seven years ago after discovering plots against their government by the Islamist terror group. The exiled leadership initially went to Qatar but then later moved to Damascus at the invitation of the Assad regime. Seven years later, they have attempted to rebuild their credibility with their eastern neighbor and had succeeded in gaining diplomatic recognition from Amman — until they decided to continue their efforts against the US ally by shipping weapons and bombs into the Hashemite Kingdom.
Now with financial bankruptcy looming and holding nothing more than pledges from Arab states for emergency cash, the Hamas-led PA reminds every Gulf nation why putting money into the pockets of Hamas runs counter to their own security and survival. Jordan’s door slam humiliates Hamas just when they had begun to pick up diplomatic momentum in the region. Even the hate-besotted Palestinian electorate might wonder why their new government busies itself with terrorist activity across the river when the PA can’t pay their own employees, and especially why it picked now to antagonize a potential benefactor.
As terrorists, Hamas was moderately successful. As politicians, they’re hopelessly inept, even by Palestinian standards.

Israel Mulling Over Responses

Israel has decided not to launch a lightning-strike attack on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority despite holding it responsible for the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed nine people and wounded dozens. Thus far, it appears that Ehud Olmert has decided to bide his time and look for ways to undermine Hamas:

Israel said Tuesday that it would increase political pressure on the Palestinian government in response to a suicide bombing the day before, but gave no hint of planning a major military response or singling out members of the Hamas-dominated government for arrest or assassination. …
Israel’s prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, huddled with senior aides and top security officials on Tuesday and chose to emphasize diplomatic and political pressure rather than a large military response, officials said.
The Israeli approach is intended to maintain Western and other international support for boycotting the new Palestinian government, which is struggling with a financial crisis and political isolation.

I’m not sure how well that will work. After all, other Gulf nations have pledged millions of dollars in replacement funding for the Palestinian Authority now that the US and EU have cut them off. It seems as though the incentive/disincentive system, at least via funding and diplomacy, will not have much effect as long as states sconomically allied with the US such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia put cash back in Palestinian coffers.
Of course, this assumes that the Arab states actually fund their pledges; they don’t have a sterling track record on follow-through. The Times reports that the money has not yet arrived, and even if it does, it hardly makes a dent in their financial picture. Between Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians might get as much as $192 million. However, its monthly cost just to cover government salaries is $150 million, and they have yet to fund their March payroll. If the money arrived today, it would just postpone for one more month the inevitable collapse of the Hamas-led PA. They cannot live without the West’s money.
One might expect, under the circumstances, that Hamas would temper their rhetoric. Not so — after waiting no more than hours, Hamas issued a statement supporting the terrorist attack on that menacing falafel stand as “self defense”. That brought another round of condemnation from diplomats around the world, especially the former paymasters of the West. Did that faze the Palestinian people? Unfortunately, no. When Mahmoud Abbas attempted to undo some of the damage done by Hamas, his own Fatah armed wing of the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades issued a demand that he apologize for the damage he has done to the Palestinians.
In this looking-glass world, Israel’s restraint will hardly be viewed as thoughtful or an opening for dialogue. Israel didn’t intend it as a message to the Palestinians; they intended it as a message to the West. Don’t think that the Olmert government won’t find some way to make Hamas squirm, but it won’t be through massive military responses that would rally support for Hamas. Expect them to follow up on the expulsion of Hamas legislators from Jerusalem to a renewed effort to complete the wall around the desired capital of both peoples. That development will damage hamas among the Palestinians more than a few missing paychecks and now can be completely justified by the Islamic Jihad terrorist attack and the official Palestinian government response of support for it.
UPDATE: Now Hamas has pledged to appeal the one direct consequence of their support for the terrorist attack — the expulsion of three Hamas legislators and a Cabinet member from Jerusalem:

Israel decided Tuesday to strip three Hamas legislators and a Cabinet minister of their Israeli-issued identity cards, which grant them permanent residency in Jerusalem and freedom of movement in Israel.
The decision was an unprecedented punishment for the Hamas-led Palestinian government’s refusal to denounce a suicide bombing by another militant group, Islamic Jihad. The bombing outside a Tel Aviv restaurant Monday killed nine civilians and wounded dozens.
Palestinian Justice Minister Ahmed Khaldi said the Hamas government would back the lawmakers’ appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court, in part because of Palestinian concerns that Israel was trying to establish a precedent to strip more Jerusalem Palestinians of their residency rights.

That sounds impressive, but Hamas tried to set a precedent stripping Israeli citizens of their breathing rights near falafel stands, and I think that takes precedence over Israel’s attempt to get Hamas out of their country.

LA Times: Isolate Hamas

The Los Angeles Times editorial board can sometimes provide a pleasant surprise, and today it demonstrates this when reviewing the Bush administration’s Palestinian policy in light of the latest suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The LAT utterly rejects Hamas’ attempt at moral equivalence and gives a strong endorsement of the isolation policy pushed by the US:

THE HORROR OF MONDAY’S SUICIDE bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed the bomber and nine other people and wounded scores more, presented Hamas with an opportunity to break from its history as a supporter of terrorism. Instead, a spokesman for Hamas, which formed a Palestinian parliamentary government last month, described the attack carried out by another group, Islamic Jihad, as an act of self-defense.
If there was any lingering doubt that the U.S. and Europe were right to ostracize the Hamas government and cut off economic aid, it has been dramatically dispelled. It remains part of the problem, not part of any Arab-Israeli solution.
That doesn’t mean Israel should respond to the attack with self-defeating actions, such as a wholesale reoccupation of the Gaza Strip. It does mean that Israel has cause to crack down anew on Islamic Jihad and institute stronger security measures along the “Green Line” separating Israel and the West Bank — even if that means injuring and inconveniencing innocent Palestinians. As always, they are hostages to the extremists.

No one wants Israel to re-occupy Gaza, least of all Israel itself. They may have split on the withdrawal from the strip when Ariel Sharon proposed and then executed the plan, but the force needed to reoccupy Gaza and the destruction it would wreak can only be exceeded by the long-term costs of holding the ground afterwards. Their withdrawal from Gaza has given the world an excellent view of the kind of state the Palestinians will create when left to their own devices — a gangland that resembles Somalia more than any other state, where warlords rule and the nonexistent central government remains powerless to protect itself or its people.
The Times also endorses the security barrier, although it issues the standard concern about the Palestinian innocents that will suffer as a result of the extremists. They neglect to mention that the Palestinians voted for the extremists, the very people who now celebrate the suicide bombing of that oh-so-threatening falafel stand as an act of “self-defense”. The Hamas position reveals the triangle-offense strategy about which I wrote yesterday, where at least one of the three powers in the territories remains free to conduct these attacks while providing political cover for the other two as they cluck their tongues but do nothing to disarm the radicals in all three movements. In this case, Hamas can’t even bring itself to cluck its tongue, and the Times notes that this bodes ill for the entire notion of the cease-fire that Hamas supposedly respects. This is the leadership that the Palestinian “innocents” selected, and they now will have to deal with the consequences of that choice.
Overall, though, the Times manages to get this one right. They even acknowledge the need for Israel to take action that will remind the Palestinians that targeting unarmed civilians for murder has its consequences, especially when the government endorses such attacks. The loss of access to Jerusalem sounds like a good starting point, and even the LA Times appears to agree.