Warren P. Strobel
McClatchy Newspapers
January 2, 2009

Editor’s note: In fact, Hamas is part of a larger intelligence operation spawned from the Muslim Brotherhood, long ago compromised by British intelligence and the CIA. Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),” Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, told Richard Sale of the UPI in 2002. Sale’s original report has since found the memory hole.

In August 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the narrow coastal territory, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised it would make Israel safer. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed the move as “historic.”

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Israel had left behind a political vacuum, however. That, along with decisions by Israel, the U.S. and Palestinian rivals inadvertently boosted the militant Islamic group Hamas into power. Hamas is stronger than ever, and Israel’s air strikes risk bolstering it further, according to current and former U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts.

Israeli leaders say the aim of their five-day-old military offensive in Gaza is to crush Hamas’s ability to fire rockets into southern Israeli cities. U.S. analysts warn of collateral damage, however, that would further weaken Mahmoud Abbas, the secular Palestinian president who’s committed to an eventual peace deal with Israel.

While Israel already has destroyed much of Hamas’s infrastructure, “I don’t see how this changes the fundamental balance of power” in the Palestinian areas, said Aaron David Miller, who advised six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations.

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