Hamas was formed in 1987 as an Islamist movement in opposition to Israel. It was linked to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. In spite of its resistance rhetoric, the organization received early covert backing and financial support from Israel. In promoting Hamas as an alternative to Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel was following the adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
In January Hamas defeated Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party to win a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature. Hamas won thanks to party discipline and a promise to maintain graft-free services. Its leaders limited their candidates to the exact number of seats open in each district. Fatah leaders lacked that discipline, and diluted their vote total by “overfiling” in every district.