Stick and carrot. The carrot is western nations agreeing to end the embargo of Abbas’s government that was imposed last year after Hamas was elected. Palestine is now “Fatahstine” and there ain’t no Hamas in Fatahstine (although there is plenty of Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, etc etc), so the money spigot can be switched back on. A peace deal may also be in the offing, as explained yesterday. The goal: to show Hamastan how good Fatahstine has it, and how good they might have it too. Shouldn’t be hard — the bar’s set awfully low.

“Gaza is becoming the Mogadishu of the Mediterranean,” said one Palestinian official who refused to be named. “People thrown off the rooftops of 10-storey buildings, Palestinians shooting other Palestinians at point blank, others shot in front of their families. So Hamas is in control but do they really think people won’t forget what has happened given our culture of pay-back and revenge?”…

Hamas will need to deal with the reality of governing an area where some 65% of people live below the poverty line. Its economy, already shattered by the last intifada, has been devastated by the international aid boycott which came into effect after Hamas, which still refuses to renounce violence or to recognise Israel’s right to exist, came to power in early 2006.

Gazans are stocking up on bread; hundreds have already headed for the border. So much for the carrot. As for the stick, Hamas’s takeover means Iran’s got three borders with Israel now via its proxies. That’s one too many for Mossad: “Israeli intelligence has little doubt that if Israel or the US attacks Iran’s burgeoning uranium enrichment programme, much of the retaliation will come from Tehran’s clients on its borders.” They can’t knock out Syria without full-fledged war with a sovereign state and they already tried knocking out Hezbollah last summer without success so they’re going to try to knock out Hamas. If, that is, you believe the Times of London:

Israel’s new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there.

According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas’s military capability in days.

The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings…

Israeli officials believe their forces would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer’s war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

If they’re serious about eventually having to attack Iran’s reactors then I guess they have no choice here. Let’s say the Times is right and the invasion’s successful; what happens then? Is Fatah reinstalled as the governing authority? Star JPost reporter Khaled Abu Toameh explained a few days ago how Fatah really lost Gaza: they blew their credibility, beginning with Arafat’s own corruption and cronyism, continuing with Abbas’s cultivation of jihadi warlords (remember, he’s the “moderate” in this equation), and culminating in Hamas’s victory in the parliamentary elections and the resulting low-grade (then high-grade) civil war. Needless to say, having the Zionist enemy come in, crush the locals, and reinstall the corrupt king on the throne isn’t going to do much to repair that credibility, especially now that Abbas has signaled he’s willing to abandon Gazans to their fate and deal with Israel separately. That carrot had better be awfully tasty or else the “solution” here, such as it is, may be a reoccupation of Gaza with Israel the only authority in the area.

I leave you with a lengthy but valuable background piece from the Observer describing the covert maneuvers made last week by Hamas to prepare the way for victory. Sample:

A week ago, as four senior Fatah officials sat down with Egyptian mediators hoping to negotiate an end to months of spiralling violence, a message arrived from Hamas that it would not be coming. A resurgence in fighting between the two sides made it too dangerous to travel to the meeting.

It was not true. Tired of the endless round of street battles and tit-for-tat assassinations between the two sides, which since the election of Hamas early last year had brought Gaza to the brink of anarchy, the leaders of Hamas had in mind a different solution to Gaza’s corrosive security crisis: a definitive attack on the faction inside Fatah it blamed for the escalating violence. Hamas was planning for war, not peace, and the target would be the security institutions still controlled by Fatah and Abbas, which had been bolstered by US funds.

Discreetly, Hamas had forged links with members and former members of Fatah with whom it was happy to deal. It had drawn up a list of buildings belonging to the security forces of Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to be overrun, and lists of Fatah loyalists it blamed for the murder of Hamas members. Finally, it had briefed journalists on the Hamas-controlled television channel al-Aqsa TV on the message to broadcast to Gaza’s 1.4 million people to reassure them, as the fighting turned from clashes to an all-out assault on Fatah-held positions.

The leader of the “faction” of Fatah to which they object is Mohammed Dahlan, now-former head of the Preventive Security Force, who targeted various Hamas members for assassination during the low-grade stage of the civil war this past year. Interviewed tonight on al-Arabiya, Dahlan naturally blamed Israel for Fatah’s collapse.

Update: Meryl Yourish e-mails to say that Uzi Mahnaimi, the author of the Times story about the supposed looming attack, has been known to post sensational reports in that vein in the past which haven’t panned out. Case in point.

Update: Via Meryl, here’s more on Mahnaimi from Joe’s Dartblog.