The Realist In Me: Hamas Supposedly Abandoning The Way of Terror

I have written much in the past about the so-called (and as I refered to it “farcical”) unity between the two major Palestinian factions – Fatah (in control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the de-facto controller of the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], representative to all Palestinian people) and Hamas (in control of the Gaza Strip).

At last, it seems that six months after its’ announcement, no unity will be held. In stand, a reconciliation agreement has been achieved. And shock of all shocks, the extreme terror group of Hamas (or its’ runaway leader in Syria, looking for a new home, Khaled Mashal) has announced that in order to enter the PLO, an entity enjoying international legitimacy and a seat in the UN (not to mention embassies in many European countries, as well as the United States) it will no longer act in violent terror against Israel.

Before I go on and explain why this isn’t the big news it could and might have been, I just want to ponder out loud (in writing) about something in open parenthesis – It took six months to achieve this agreement between two factions that only three summers ago were brutally killing each other. Yet, Mahmoud Abbas denies entering any kind of negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, based on six hours of mostly photo-oped and filled-with-press meetings? Seriously?

The following post will consist of two main sections –

  1. Reasons for this sudden, supposed dramatic, announcement
  2. Why the realist (and not the skeptic) in me, refuses to beleive it

But before I dive into any of those, one things need to be cleared – Hamas supports an extreme Islamic ideology. To that extent, a Hudna (sometimes translated “truce” or “ceasefire”) in its’ eyes is a limited period of up to 10 years within a war, where the jihad fighters assess that the enemy has much more power or strength, and could win if the fighting continues. The period is used to strengthen one’s enemy and fighters. It is a unilateral decision, that does not follow any negotiations and is meant to serve for the benefit of the jihad alone. Should the enemy be detected as losing its’ power within the 10 years period, the hudna can be broken at once and war may resume, at the whims of the commandor.

Of course, I’ll address this more in the second section of this post…

The whys – Hamas is with its’ back against the wall

We’re about a year now into the begining of what has been labeled The Arab Spring, and one of its’ side effects is the changes going through Hamas. Between supporting the uprising in Egypt (and many other countries) and supporting the Iranian regime brutal actions to abate the uprising against it, Hamas found itself in a lose-lose situation with the uprising in Syria, the home and supporter of its’ senior leaders – Bashar al-Assad has been blindly killing the protestors, among them the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hamas sees itself as a part of. Its’ refusal to support Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the actions taking against the uprising, have made its’ seniors evacuate Damascus (according to some reports, up until last week Khlaed Mashal was the only Hamas personnel left in Syria) and had the Iranian regime cut funds and all transfers of money (and arms) to it.

Senior Hamas official, Khaled Mashal, has left Syria according to reports and is seeking a new home to Hamas' headquarters in Egypt.

Senior Hamas official, Khaled Mashal, has left Syria according to reports and is seeking a new home to Hamas' headquarters in Egypt.

This situations strengthed the seniors of Hamas residing in Gaza and made the seniors who do not wish to be in Gaza search for a new home to their headquarters. These two conditions together, brought forth some flexability in Hamas’ stand and allowed the Gilad Shalit prisoners swap deal to finally happen (though, let’s not kid ourselves, they may have given up on the truly big guns, but recieved plenty and then some in this deal, not to mention raked a political fortune — more on that in a few paragraphs [reason #2]).

The results of various uprisings also led to the reality where an opposer of Israel – the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hamas sees itself as a part of – would be sitting in a government that has a de-facto peace agreement and collaboration with Israel (Egypt). Moreover, Egypt itself is still controlled by the Supreme Military Council, and would be for much longer, and such council does not wish to house a terror group in such a delicate time in which it is still in control, especially since it can see many of the interests that those who incite in the run for office can’t really see (many of which is the need for any and all economic support possible right now, including from those who outlawed Hamas in Europe and North America).

Main reason #2 for the whys would be that Hamas has been controlling a pretty limited society in Gaza, forcing war and violence upon the population, the kinds that brought a blockade and frequent airstrikes against its’ buildings and factories (located within populated areas) while Fatah has been controlling a more free socity, both in terms of Palestinian government and with Israel, though of course not in a close-to-optimal way. For instance, in July of 2010, the group Boonie ’em performed in Ramallah – Hamas could never make that happen in Gaza in the current reality (this is of course only one out of many examples). This “reconciliation” allows Hamas to try and reclaim its’ old claim of winning elections and therefore being the true representative of the Palestinian people – Election are scheduled to be conducted in May and this, along with the 1,027 prisoners released, would give Hamas major power and strength in the ballots.

And of course, there is the unilateral moves Fatah is hard at work at – the unilateral move in the UN, UNESCO and more. In the attempt to widen the Palestinian legitimacy and establishing facts on the ground, Hamas has been left out of the game. If this yields anything, even such as the UNESCO acceptance, Hamas wants a piece of the pie and his name engraved to it as well.

However, since the PLO is an international-legitime entity (unlike Hamas), and Abbas wants to preserve that (at least for now), Joining the PLO and going to the reconciliation agreement brought Mashal to declare that his organization is foresaking (for now) violent terror against Israel. In his own words, Hamas would now draw inspiration from the Arab Spring to promote “non-violent” protests against Israel.

Why is it so hard to believe such a statement, beyond the obvious?

First of all, let’s see what this reconciliation agreement and Mashal’s statement does not contain – it does not contain a recognition of Israel, nor of its’ right to exist, nor of abandoning the path to its’ annihilation. Moreover, it does not contain any kind of recognition is past agreements signed with Israel.

Moreover, to take from a the words and actions of Hamas senior official, Ahmed Youssef, who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2006 where he spoked highly of hudnas, then went on to talk or write in various Arab and Muslim medias and opposed them, saying this was only a European proposal Hamas declined. In that same sense, Mashal’s own words need to be tested in various medias – so only this week, after his declaration, went talking to Arab journalists, he said that Hamas has not abandoned the way of terror and would never stop fighting Israel as long as it exists. “Only we will decide how to act” and “All options are always on the table” were the kinds of things he said.

The skeptic in me is also wondering who is really in charge – Khaled Mashal may have been the one to talk reconciliation in Cairo, but seeing as he’s been “evicted” from his previous home and the outside leadership of Hamas has lost major power, what if Mashal is unable to enforce his statement on Hamas officials in Gaza? The same officials who put a stop to his year-long refusal to compromise even a tiny bit on the Gilad Shalit matter, and made the deal happen?

In terms of learning from history, there’s the obvious example of former PLO/Fatah/Palestinian President Yasser Araffat, who recieved the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 (along with Itzhak Rabin and current Israeli President Shimon Peres), and then went on to command and lost control of the most brutal and bloody round of terror (and that ended up only worsening the status quo of the Palestinian people). But in terms of Hamas itself, there are countless incidents that can be referenced. Each Hudna in the past only lasted a short while (for example, in 2003 it only lasted two months and was ended with a bombing in Jerusalem that took the lives of 23 citizens).

In late 2004, another Hudna was declared under the name Tahadia. While suicide bombing nearly stopped, qassam rockets and mortar shells continued to be fired. In Janaury of 2005 for example, two Israelis (Ayala Abukasis and Nissim Arbiv) died  from a direct hit. Even in the 2008 Tahadia, preceding Israel’s offensive in Gaza, about 280 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel during the six-month Tahadia and countless efforts to dig tunnels to abduct soldiers or place explosives near the border were made. At the end of the six-months Tahadia, Hamas was armed with more weapons and longer range missiles.

Even if I went as far as saying that all of these hudnas or Tahadias fell apart because of Israel (a ridicolous claim in its’ own seeing as a Hudna is a unilateral declaration having nothing to do with the “enemy”), the very fact that Hamas is not going as far as recognizing Israel or accepting past agreement the PLO signed with Israel, is enough to shout out loud that this is nothing more than a farce. A magician trick to make you look at one hand while he’s busy with the other. I mean, the way all agreements between Hamas and Fatah had dissolved after the unity government and the Mecca Agreement of Febraury 2007, and became the violent coup is enough to make you wonder (or at least make me wonder) how much can they be trusted? The Mecca Agreement disintergration was motivated by disagreement between different Hamas officials (much like what I asked earlier regarding which Hamas leadership is now in power) and has used the firing of rockets onto Israeli civilians as a tool in this inner-Palestinian war.

So what could this be? A frightening thought is that this is a chance for Hamas to enter the PLO, strengthen its’ military power, win elections (this time for real) and not only control the strip but also the West Bank, replacing the Palestinian Authority’s official security forces with its’ won. Then, having complete control there, would they be able to view themselves stronger than Israel and break the Hudna – firing rockets into the middle of Israel and putting over 4 million citizens of Israel (along with the threats currently in the south) under constant threats of rockets.

A less frightening thought (depending on your perspective that is) is implementing what has long been known as Phase 1, which can be concluded from the words of Mashal and other Hamas senios officials: Establishing the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders, without ending the demands or the conflict, and using that to promote the complete annihiliation of Israel. In 2004, Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, proposed a 10 year hudna in which Palestine would be formed on the 1967 borders and the establishment of it all over the region (with the dismantaling of Israel) would continue from there. Rantissi has been killed by Israel, but the idea most certainly hasn’t.

Personally, I don’t really see a “less than dark” scenario. Even if somehow Fatah wins the elections and overpowers Hamas, the fact that the situation won’t change due to this reconciliation agreement (two seperate entities still existing, two seperate police powers, two seperate law systems etc), that Hamas hasn’t really changed his ideology or its’ methology, doesn’t exactly garantuee they would accept the results this time.

And one last note – It seems Mashal didn’t really understand what the Arab Spring is, or simply choose to deflect it. Seeing Hamas is the direct controlling power of over 1.5 Gazans, and not Israel, seeing as he is the body and government that enforced them an oppressive non-democratic soceity, an Arab Spring uprising would actually be against Hamas itself and removing it from power. I’m not holding my breath for that happening, if to be completely honest.

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