Hamas’s Difficult Questions

Yahya Al-Sinwar, the new Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: via MEMO)

By Ahmad Al-Hilah

Palestine’s National Reconciliation Government has announced its intention to hold its next Monday meeting in Gaza after Hamas announced the dissolution of the administrative committee and called upon the government in Ramallah to assume all of its duties in the enclave.

The optimists among us assumed that President Mahmoud Abbas’s government would end its punitive measures against the Palestinians in Gaza; provide electricity, water and medicine; coordinate with the Israelis and Egyptians to facilitate the movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip; and start to rebuild the infrastructure, public facilities and private property destroyed by the Israelis during their attacks on Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

It remains just optimism so far, based on the fact that the ball has been put in the Palestinian Authority’s court after Hamas dropped its conditions and excused itself in the eyes of the Palestinian people. However, practicality requires an objective view of the positions and objectives of the main players, specifically Washington and Tel Aviv, which influence the positions of Cairo and Ramallah, in order to understand the realities of the current Palestinian scene.

We all know that the continued political division was linked to a US/Israeli desire — which aligned with Egypt’s wishes — that has manifested itself by thwarting every regional effort to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, including the Makkah, Doha and Al-Shati agreements. It was also manifested in the intensification of the siege and repeated military attacks on Gaza in order to turn the Palestinian public against Hamas and the resistance. When such efforts failed, the US and Israel were forced to change tack and shift from the idea of eliminating Hamas and the resistance by force towards containment under the pressure of the siege and the hope of it being lifted. They took advantage of the unexpected shock at the blockade of Qatar, which supports the Palestinians in Gaza, as well as Egypt’s ability to suffocate the territory and besiege the new Hamas leadership, especially the head of its political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh.

This critical moment coincided with the lifting of the US veto on reconciliation, as stated by Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook. There is obviously a plan behind this, because it wasn’t for humanitarian reasons or a guilty conscience that Washington and Tel Aviv lifted the veto on reconciliation and the end of the division, which has served the interests of the Israeli occupation. This was expressed by US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt: “That’s why it’s time for the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza” and to “start changing the situation in Gaza.” This is in preparation for the so-called “deal of the century”, which is expected to be announced at the end of the year, according to several sources.

Hence, what they need in the next few months is to buy the silence of Hamas in the face of the upcoming political settlement in exchange for easing the movement from the bottleneck of the siege that it can no longer handle financially. This is after credit is given to Abbas, who is, once again, nominated to participate in the political process marathon, led by Trump.

Something worse than silence or succumbing to the deal may occur if Abbas’s government manages to impose its control over civil society, security and the police in the Gaza Strip. This is because it will have to address the issue of the weapons held by resistance groups beyond PA control, as it did in the West Bank, as a precondition of the agreement process. This was expressed on Facebook by Major General Adnan Al-Damiri, the spokesman for the security services in Ramallah, after Hamas announced the dissolution of the administrative committee. “Just as the Palestinian leadership did not accept any other weapons parallel to the legitimate weapons of the leadership in the West Bank,” he wrote, “it will not accept it in the Gaza Strip, even if it falls under the resistance.”

In this context, many questions come to mind. For example, what would Hamas’s position be if the PA is handed security control of the Gaza border and prevents the Qassam Brigades and resistance groups from being deployed there and monitoring the movements of the Israeli occupation army?

What will Hamas’s position be if the PA confiscates the military training camps belonging to the Qassam Brigades and other resistance factions? Indeed, what will the movement’s position be if the security services prevent or restrict the manufacture of weapons by the Qassam Brigades or Islamic Jihad?

What will Hamas’s position be if it discovers that the PA security services cooperate with Israel and reveal the location of the Israeli soldiers being held by the Qassam Brigades?

What will Hamas’s position be if President Abbas’s government arrests activists and Imams, or blocks Al-Aqsa satellite channel under the pretext of “incitement of terrorism”?

What will Hamas’s position be if Abbas demands that the resistance fighters should be handed over to the control of the Palestinian Authority or that the Qassam Brigades should be merged with the Palestinian National Security Service under the pretext of uniting Palestinian ranks and thus invalidating US and Israeli justifications for rejecting the joining together of the PA and resistance?

All of these “what-ifs” are limited to the security issue and have not addressed the fate of the 45,000 employees hired by the democratically-elected Hamas government. Nor have they addressed the presidential, legislative and PNC elections and their conditions.

I hope that Fatah and Hamas will be able to reach an understanding and agree on the mechanisms that will preserve the lowest common denominators, protect the unity of the Palestinian people and preserve their power through a combination of diplomacy and resistance. This will act as potential leverage for political activities. However, experience, different positions and the clash of political agendas leads us naturally to discuss the concerns and fears that may simply take us back to square one.

(Translated by Middle East Monitor from Alkhaleejonline, 26 September 2017)

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