By Ali Younes
The news that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is giving up his leadership post is an ominous sign that Hamas is heading toward more confrontation with its Palestinian rival Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the near future. Meshaal is reported as seeking a bigger role for himself within the PLO even perhaps as its leader replacing the ageing and discredited Mahmoud Abbas.
As a leader of Gaza-based Hamas, Meshaal should have been leading his organization from Gaza which is free of Israeli control and work to improve the lives of the people of Gaza his organization has been controlling since 2007. Instead Meshaal has opted to place himself in the mold of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat taking comfort in hoping from this Arab capital to that with the hope of one day of replacing Arafat a “symbol” of the Palestinian struggle against Israel albeit with very little results.
Even though Meshaal lacks the personal charisma Arafat enjoyed for over 40 years which later proved to be a disastrous trait for Palestinians leaders, he might find the regional alignment in his favor especially in Egypt, and Iran should he decides to pursue plans to lead the PLO later on.
In order to respond to overwhelming Israeli power, Palestinians need political managers skilled in statecraft and clean-handed politicians’ not charismatic leaders who will inevitably turn into corrupt dictators and stay in power for decades. Neither Meshaal nor Abbas can be described as clean-handed or competent.
Palestinians, much like their Arab brethren in the Arab States have yet to produce the kind of leadership that will hold itself accountable to the people and to the law. This is perhaps one of the key differences between Israeli and Palestinians whereas Israelis were able to develop an able pool of diverse leaders who acted in the best interest of their state and citizens even before they established their state in 1948. Palestinians on the other hand were stuck with the same leaders for generations who led them from one disaster to another.
Meshaal who has been leading Hamas since the mid-nineties might have come to see himself as a leader of all the Palestinian people as part of larger strategy by Hamas to control the overall Palestinian leadership. This could be a plausible scenario given the deteriorating conditions within the Palestinian territories and the discredited leaders of the PA and the relentless Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Ever since its inception in 1987, Hamas has played as spoiler of the now defunct “peace process” and as a competitor to Fatah in its quest to lead the Palestinian people in their struggle to achieve their independence and end the Israeli occupation.
Helping Meshaal in his goal is the rise of Islamic leaders in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab World which he sees as his natural allies and obviously sharing his ideological background.
The problem with Meshaal and Hamas, however, is that they behave much like other Palestinian organizations, past and present, by beholden to the interests of their pay masters and political allies in Iran, Qatar, Egypt and Syria. Hamas continued control of Gaza strip and its refusal to relinquish its grip on power there is also part of a regional struggle that involved the same regional and international actors who pay money to both Hamas and the PA.
Acting as pawns of other Arab states and its leaders has been the story of the Palestinian leaders even before 1948. Clan-based Palestinian leaders of the Husseini and Nashasheebi families of the 1930s and 40s were more consumed with fighting and plotting against each other than fighting off the British and the Zionists at that time. As a result they were caught off guard and totally unprepared militarily and politically when Zionist leaders declared their state of Israel in 1948 in what was once Palestine.
Arab states’ meddling and corrupting of the Palestinian leaders and organizations continued even when they founded the PLO to function on their behest against each other. Hamas is no different than other more secular organizations.
In July of 1967 a mere month after Arabs were defeated and lost the West Bank and Gaza along with Sinai and the Golan Heights, Israeli cabinet member Yigal Allon proposed a plan — Allon Plan — offering the Palestinians (then under the control of Jordan) an autonomous populated areas within the West Bank and Gaza while Israel retains much of the West Bank and Jerusalem and overall military, political and economic control.
The fact that both Hamas and Fatah organizations have resigned themselves, and fighting each other at the same time, to control different semi-autonomous parts of the West Bank and Gaza while remaining under an overall Israeli military, political and economic control, exactly like the “Allon Plan”, shows how shameless, irresponsible and incompetent those leader are. Palestinians simply deserve better leaders.
– Ali Younes is a political analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @clearali.