22, 02, 12
In the Gaza
Strip there’s a civil war within Hamas. In the West Bank, there’s nobody to
replace PLO boss Mahmoud Abbas. Whither Palestine?
serious split in Hamas reflecting the growing civil war among Islamists along
Sunni-Shia lines. Each side is radical but the fact that they’re fighting among
themselves weakens both of them.
involved are tactical, not strategic. Indeed, what is ironic is that Khaled
Mashal, who historically has been described as the radical, is following the
approach that will seem moderate to the naïve while Ismail Haniya, described by
the naive as the moderate is leading the ostensibly more radical faction.
signed a deal with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for a coalition
between Hamas and the PA. Of course, neither partner trusts the other in the
least. Mashal wants to take over the PA; Mr Abbas wants to tame Hamas and
recapture the Gaza Strip or, at least, present the Palestinians to the world as
united in order to demand a state now without any need to make peace with
contrast, Haniya claims that this deal is a sell-out to the PA cowardly
compromisers. Haniya was just in Tehran where his hosts repeatedly warned him
against the “compromising” traitors in Hamas’s ranks. Of course, the deal with the PA is nothing of
behind this split is the broader conflict between the Sunni and Shia Islamist
camps. Haniya is siding with the Iranians, who have a lot of money but are
Shia; Mashal is linking up with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which borders
on the Gaza Strip, is Sunni, is now gaining power in Egypt, and belong to the
same organisation as Hamas.
my money on Mashal. The Iranians can provide money but only the Egyptian Muslim
Brotherhood can ultimately be a real patron on the ground, forwarding money,
men, weapons, and material goods to the Gaza Strip. If Hamas goes to war with
Israel again it will be Egypt, not Iran (even if it has nuclear weapons) that
will matter in the battle.
another irony here that makes sense. Mashal has spent most of his time outside
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thus, he has had more contact with Iran. Haniya
has been actually running the Gaza Strip to a large extent and thus has more
contact with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. I guess familiarity breeds
contempt. Each man is trying to escape the orbit of the powerful big brother he
has been dealing with all these years.
The PA will
not dominate Hamas and take over the Gaza Strip. Nor will Hamas be able to
seize power in the West Bank, in part because Israel won’t allow that to
happen. And here’s still another irony. Since Haniya is against the deal, he and
his allies will make sure that Fatah cannot campaign freely in the Gaza Strip.
projected PA elections will never come off and the Hamas-PA deal will break
down, probably within the next six months. Yet the battle between the Egyptian
Muslim Brotherhood (aided by the Jordanian branch) and Iran over influencing
Hamas will continue.
all of Hamas remains hardline and the only difference is over how best to wipe
out Israel and commit genocide against the Jews. The Palestinians also remain
badly divided. None of the leadership can deliver peace with Israel and none of
these leaders want peace (and a Palestinian state based on a two-state
solution) enough to make the compromises necessary to achieve it.
still another important element in Palestinian politics receiving almost no
attention: The future leadership of the PA and Fatah. Prime Minister Salam
Fayyad is a relatively honest, relatively moderate technocrat. All of Hamas and
most of Fatah loathe him. He only holds his office because the Western donors
want him there. Can he last out this year or the next?
is that a PA-Hamas deal requires either that Mr Abbas or a Hamas leader becomes
Prime Minister. Remember that the post of Prime Minister was originally created
due to Western insistence that someone be in a position to stop Mr Yasser
Arafat, Mr Abbas’ predecessor, from stealing the money being donated.
there’s Mr Abbas himself. He has been ailing and while his periodic resignation
threats have been phony ways of preserving his leverage, his retirement is only
a matter of time.
replace him? No one has the slightest idea. There is not a single serious
candidate. Presumably, the Fatah barons will make the choice. Mr Abbas
originally got the job precisely because he was so weak. None of the Fatah
warlords or bosses felt threatened by a man with no popular or organisational
base of support.
Abbas is more aware of the potential benefits of peace with Israel and more
realistic about Fatah’s inability to wipe out that country. But he is set on
the idea that unless Israel agrees to take back any Palestinian who can trace
his ancestry to pre-1948 residence there can be no peace.
successor is almost certainly going to be more militant. There are two main
factions in Fatah. The Arafat cronies, who are more corrupt and satisfied with
the status quo, and the Fatah radicals, who’d like another round of fighting
because they still believe in the revolutionary ideology. In short, Palestinian
politics are a mess. Nobody can deliver peace; no one will struggle to achieve
a compromise peace agreement with Israel.
Writer is a Syndicated Columnist.