Palestinian Views on Hamas, September

Palestinian Views on Hamas, September

Al-Ayyam, Israel Radio North
1.9.2011
 
via Al-Ayyam, Israel Radio North (translated from Arabic and Hebrew by Geneva Initiative staff)
 
As September begins and preparations near for the United Nations General Assembly, where the Palestinian Authority plans to request a vote on its membership status, and while the security situation in Southern Israel destabilizes, we have translated the thoughts of two Palestinian leaders regarding current and upcoming events.
 
Ashraf Al-Ajrami, one of the Geneva Initiative's Palestinian leaders, is certain that Hamas's ability to lead in the Gaza Strip is weakening in favor of more extreme armed forces, and that the movement understands that another large-scale war with Israel with threaten its rule. In an opinion piece in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam (24.8.2011), Al-Ajrami analyzes why Hamas prefers a lull over escalation. Here are some selections from the piece:
 
Hamas leadership understands that a large scale war in the near future would lead to a trembling in its leadership and even to its destruction, should the Israelis decide to change the rules of the game as they currently stand.
 
There are several significant developments in the Gaza Strip. One is the speed at which, [after recent attacks from Gaza], Hamas moved to request a ceasefire, and devoted every effort possible to convince other local and international forces to stop clashes. As such, in recent events Hamas has concealed language of resistance from its discourse, as opposed to past instances where it spread its resistance slogans loudly into the air.
 
Hamas seems to understand that internal problems within Netanyahu's government – especially the widespread and growing social protests – would ease Israel's ability to use great force in a potential confrontation.
 
Hamas suffers from a difficult economic situation, which influences its ability to pay its workers' salaries. It could not handle extensive damage in the Gaza Strip (that would result from an Israeli assault) at a time when [international] aid is low and priorities are different, as most Arab aid goes to countries undergoing popular revolutions.
 
Iran, the main supporter of Hamas, is currently bothered by issues in Syria, and wants more than anything to keep Bashar Al Assad, its strategic partner in the Arab world, in power. It is prepared to transfer money for the purpose of escalation with Israel and to cover up crimes perpetrated by the Syrian regime, and will even grant Al Assad full opportunity to continue the oppression of his people, just so that he can stay in power and crush the revolution.
 
Hamas, which has also been under the sponsorship of the Syrian regime, is not ready to expose its leadership to danger for the sake of Assad's rule, especially when the Muslim Brothers in Syria are working against the regime.
 
Hamas is no longer the only actor in the Gaza Strip, even now while it is technically in power. The other forces have grown powerful in terms of weapon arsenals, manpower and funding, they have a lot of influence in North Sinai, and they could harm Hamas in a potential conflict between the sides. The Islamic Jihad has also increased in strength due to Iranian support, with a large amount of equipment and power that should not be underestimated. Therefore, Hamas's orders are often ignored and not fully implemented. The amount of armed mechanisms in Gaza is flourishing. Substantial parts of Hamas's military command face extreme directions, and parts of them have left Hamas's care.
 
The armed groups, which are not interested in maintaining rule of law or the rules of the game with Israel, could initiative an anarchical situation in the Gaza Strip. If this does, in fact, occur, Israel may decide to terminate the current situation in the Strip with a large scale military operation aimed at toppling Hamas's rule.
 
In the case that Israel does decide to attack in Gaza, several questions must be considered. What will happen after the collapse of Hamas's rule? Is an anarchical Gaza in Israel's interest, or will Israel be forced into a political process that would lead to a peace agreement? The Israeli mentality to date sought to maintain the status quo, but with underlying knowledge that as Hamas loses its grip on power, the status quo cannot be maintained in the long term.
 
Sufyan Abu Zaidah, former Palestinian Minister, was recently interviewed by Israeli journalist Shlomo Buchbut (26.8.2011). The two, who met during a Geneva Initiative seminar, discussed the upcoming Palestinian initiative at the United Nations General Assembly in September.Abu Zaidah stressed that the initiative comes after years of failed negotiations, and that it offers Palestinians a form of non-violent action. "Palestinians want to continue fighting for their rights in a non-violent way. One way is to go to the U.N."
 
Abu Zaidah clarified a misconception about September that many Israelis seem to have. "We are not declaring a state – that is the mistake. We are going to the U.N. to ask for recognition and acceptance of Palestine as a member. [That is what we are doing] now, and later we will ask that the U.N. help us realize our decision and receive our land, based on the 1967 borders… We do not demand an end to Israel, we simply want to live in our own state, and we will ask the U.N. to help us reach that goal."
 
Finally, he stressed that, as a member of the Geneva Initiative, he supports negotiations. However, he added that negotiations cannot take place absent a government willing to negotiate on actual issues, one that attempts to change realities on the ground rather than negotiating, as Netanyahu's government has done time and time again.