By drawing Israel to the negotiating table this week, Hamas has effectively rendered the Palestinian Authority irrelevant, said Ghassan Khatib, a political scientist and former spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Hamas has demonstrated “that it is part of the future, part of the changes taking place in Arab countries, and that the Palestinian Authority is part of the past,” Khatib said.
But even as Hamas’s popularity surged and other Palestinian factions, including the Palestinian Authority, sought to show solidarity with the group Thursday, the separate rallies of Gaza’s various masked militants also raised questions about the limits of Hamas’s control once the dust settles.
But Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, along with the leaders of Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s militant wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said the cease-fire was the product of an agreement reached among Palestinian factions.
“All the Palestinian factions will commit to the agreement, and we will follow up with Egypt to see how far [Israel] commits,” Haniyeh said in a speech before his Gaza cabinet and reporters Thursday.
Haniyeh attributed Hamas’s proclaimed victory, in part, to a changed region that Israel had vastly underestimated. Israel “staged this war in a changing region. Egypt has changed, and the whole Muslim world has changed,” he said.
The region’s newly democratic countries, particularly Egypt, had provided Hamas with formidable backing in its challenge to Israel, he said, adding that Israel’s week-long air offensive was “shortsighted.
Many other Gazans agreed with Haniyeh’s statement as the territory hummed to life again Thursday with the sounds of construction and civilians returning to work. Taxis, cement mixers and dump trucks plied the strip’s pockmarked streets. And banks and businesses reopened to a relieved citizenry.
In the northern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military had ordered an evacuation Tuesday night, farmers returned to crater-marked land with newfound respect for the militant groups that they said had headed off an Israeli ground invasion with Iran-supplied long-range rockets.
Some also expressed hope that Hamas’s burgeoning regional clout could soon end Gaza’s isolation.
“Israel besieged the Hamas government to make people hate Hamas. And in the beginning, they really did,” said a strawberry farmer who declined to give his name because he hopes to cross the border one day.
“But after this war, even people in the West Bank are loving Hamas now,” he said.
Londoño reported from Tel Aviv.