Contrary to what many people think, there is no profound division between Fatah and Hamas. Palestinians often shuttle from one to the other; members of the same family belong to different groups. Jibril Rajoub, for example, is often interviewed by the Israeli media as representing Fatah (Palestinian Authority), while his brother, Naif, was a minister in the de-facto Hamas administration.
Before 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and suppressed the Fatah presence there, there was a considerable amount of back-and-forth between the organizations. On one occasion a Fatah operative in jail smiled and said he found it hard to say which organization he belonged to. "There are days," he said, "when I go to sleep Fatah and wake up Hamas..."
Last week, masses of people marched through the streets of the West Bank holding green signs with Hamas slogans, all with Fatah's blessing, and chanting, "death to the Jews," and "death to Israel." As one veteran Fatah member said, "In our hearts we are all Hamas."
Mahmoud Abbas's so-called "pragmatism" is music to Western ears, but not to the Arabs'.
Thus, when he came back from the UN with the title of "president of Palestine" in his pocket, he allowed Hamas and others to hold parades and rallies, released Hamas prisoners, and has given instructions that those planning terrorist attacks against Israel are to be left to do as they please.
Today the Palestinian Authority can barely stay afloat, and every mass march organized to palliate Hamas can slide into factional Palestinian violence and anti-Israeli terrorism.
Hamas, with the help recently and willingly given it by Mahmoud Abbas, will take over, just as it took over the Gaza Strip. Israel can never accept a radical Islamist emirate in the West Bank of the sort Hamas has created in the Gaza Strip, any more than Paris, London or Washington could accept al-Qaeda or the Taliban in Monaco, Wales or Virginia.
This time, no one can promise that Israeli soldiers will continue to act as bodyguards for Palestinian leaders when their lives are threatened. That movie, which we have all seen, is no longer playing.
Dr. Anat Berko, a visiting professor at George Washington University and a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, is the author of The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers.