By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
There are real concerns that the outstanding performance of the resistance in the Gaza Strip (GS) might be hijacked by the mentality that dominates the thinking of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The main concern here would be for the proponents of the peace process, who renounce violence and armed resistance, to ride on the coattails of the resistance and possible arrangements over the anticipated truce with the Israeli occupation forces, whereby they would be entrusted to manage arrangements on the ground, including guaranteeing the truce and managing the crossings, in addition to managing daily life in GS.
This diagnosis is logical given that the caretaker government led by Hamas had stepped aside, and was officially replaced by the national consensus government led by Rami Hamadallah, which would make the latter government the party concerned with implementing agreements and obligations.
So far, the Palestinian delegation negotiating in Cairo has given a positive impression in terms of its cohesion and Palestinian consensus vis-à-vis the truce and the conditions for ceasing hostilities, including lifting the blockade, opening the crossings, establishing a seaport, and other conditions. However, what comes after this in terms of the way life in GS will be managed must contribute to strengthening and fortifying it, and promoting its steadfastness and resistance, rather than to subdue it, and “declaw it and remove its teeth.”
The outstanding performance by Hamas and resistance forces on the battlefield needs to be translated politically and on the ground, in a way that reflects the steadfastness and sacrifices of the Palestinian people, even if the conditions for a truce in line with the demands of the resistance are met. Thus, the party that will be entrusted to implement the agreements must be trustworthy, or at least, there should be binding guarantees that would oblige it to deliver.
Hamas has been keen to implement the reconciliation agreement, and the arrangements agreed in al-Shati’ Agreement (23/4/2014). But this was interpreted by some to mean that Hamas was weak and exhausted, and that it had therefore consented to the agreement begrudgingly, something that Hamas proved to be wrong during the ongoing GS war. However, strategic calculations do not only focus on the elements of organizational, popular, and military strengths of Hamas, but also try to take advantage of some loopholes that affect Hamas and resistance forces, notably:
– The implementation of the reconciliation agreement has been entrusted practically to President ‘Abbas, without a binding mechanism.
– The reconciliation agreement has practically kept the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) paralyzed pending the election of a new council. This prevents Hamas, which controls the majority of seats, to exercise any supervisory role over the executive authority in the presidency and the government.
– The reconciliation agreement requires a period of calm, to find a suitable atmosphere for the elections in the West Bank (WB) and GS; this means practically stopping the program of resistance on the ground.
– The reconciliation agreement has terminated the tenure of the caretaker government headed by Isma‘il Haniyyah, denying Hamas “political legitimacy,” through which it represented the Palestinian people in the PA areas.
In a climate like this, the leverage Hamas has fades (after the dust settles from the battle with the enemy), especially in terms of the core of its strength related to its popular legitimacy, resistance platform, and political legitimacy.
On the other hand, the government of national consensus formed by Rami Hamadallah is:
– Closer to being a Fatah government, rather than being a government of real national consensus.
– Committed to the policies and directives of President ‘Abbas, where these are hostage to the peace process and are hostile to “political Islam.”
– Uninterested (judging it by its performance on the ground) or unable in the best case, to form a real partnership with Hamas. The government conducted itself in a manner closer to being compliant with U.S. and Israeli demands and conditions, than to implementing a program for national reconciliation.President ‘Abbas in fact announced that the government was “his government,” and that it was committed to the Quartet’s conditions, including recognizing Israel and the agreements signed with it, and renouncing armed resistance. ‘Abbas also stressed that that security coordination with Israel was “sacred,” while the conduct of the PA’s security forces remained unchanged in terms of restricting freedoms and not allowing institutions affiliated to resistance forces to return.
– Already tarnished by the fact that the PA in Ramallah refused to pay salaries to the GS civil servants, on whose shoulders all public sector functions stood for seven continuous years. This was an appalling sign about the kind of mentality in the camp entrusted with implementing the Oslo Accords and its conditions. It sent an “arrogant” gesture to Hamas as if to say that it and its supporters had no place, not only at the level of leadership and partnership in running the PA, but even at the level of ordinary civil servants. This whole conduct was in order not to upset the “financial overlords” among Western backers, or the Israelis who control the money tap and the movement of persons.
Therefore, by what logic can a caretaker authority, subservient to the Occupation (in Ramallah), manage the GS, which has succeeded in imposing its will, forcing the Occupation to withdraw; defended itself with dignity and sacrifices; and built a free and creative logistic base for Palestinian resistance? In this case, the PA in Ramallah must deal with the resistance as leverage for the Palestinian national project, rather than to seek to subdue the GS and the resistance to fulfill Israeli and American conditions.
When the Israeli occupation forces launched its assault on GS, the government in Ramallah behaved as though the assault was taking place in another country on a different planet, rather than on a piece of the homeland. True, the attitudes of the leaders in Ramallah improved in the following days of the war, as they reached out to leaders in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ), under pressure from the ferocity of the assault, the achievements of the resistance, and the popular support for it, but:
– The PA reacted to events slowly and belatedly, and in a way that was very much below expectations and hopes.
– The PA leadership took part in drafting the Egyptian paper in coordination with Israel and Egypt, behind the resistance’s back. The least that can be said about this document is that it robs the resistance of any chance to come out with gains, and keeps the issue of lifting the blockade and its ramifications hostage to negotiations, after Israel becomes in a comfortable position free of any pressure to change its policies.
– The PA in Ramallah continued its security coordination with Israel even during the assault on GS, where Israeli hands were being stained with the blood of two thousand killed Palestinians, and ten thousand wounded, destroying thousands of homes, hospitals, schools, and infrastructure.
– The PA in Ramallah sought to contain popular anger, and prevent it from turning into a large-scale uprising in the WB, allowing people only to “vent” some of their anger within conditions and restrictions that prevent friction with the Israeli occupation.
– The PA leadership failed to address the scandalous announcement by the Palestinian delegate to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Ibrahim Khreisheh, to Palestine TV, in which he said that launching missiles against Israel constitutes a crime against humanity. The PA did not take any action against him. If Khreisheh cannot differentiate between Israeli missiles and the rockets of the resistance, we do not think he is in a position to represent the Palestinian people in international forums.
The regional climate has further weakened the resistance’s ability to capitalize on its achievements. Both “Moderate Front” and “Refusal Front” of Arab regimes are staging counter-revolutionary waves against the uprisings and changes in the region, and are focusing all their efforts on the animus with Islamist movements—especially the Muslim Brothers (MB) movement—that had risen to the vanguard of the wave of change, as a threat to these regimes and their future.
The Sisi regime in Egypt enforced the harshest closure of its kind of the only Arab border with the GS, in an even harsher manner than the Israeli GS siege, and destroyed around 1,650 tunnels in a ruthlessly more efficient manner than the former Mubarak regime ever did. The Sisi regime put forward an initiative for ceasefire that benefits Israel more than the resistance, and showed extreme intransigence regarding the issue of opening the Rafah crossing that surpassed even Israeli intransigence.
This is not to mention many reports (especially those coming from Israel) about how convenient the Israeli assault on GS was for the Egyptian regime, which wanted the Israelis to carry out a decisive blow to Hamas. The appalling coverage of the media outlets affiliated to the Egyptian regime (both public and private) of the Israeli assault on GS reveals part of the truth about the attitude of the Egyptian regime.
Meanwhile, the remarkably lackluster reaction of a number of “Moderate Front” regimes reflects their implicit desire to see Hamas defeated, and their anxious desire to end this issue as quickly as possible. This is not to mention reports about collusion between the “Moderate Front” and Israel to defeat Hamas and the resistance in GS.
As for the forces of the “Refusal Front,” its cold reaction to the events in GS was also remarkable. These countries only got on the bandwagon of support of the resistance slowly and belatedly, after the resistance took the world by surprise with its achievements and endurance. It seemed that these forces are consumed and preoccupied with the internal agendas of the regimes and the parties that support them, which have problems with their peoples.
Hamas and the resistance forces also face a hostile climate led by the United States that support the Israeli side, and support efforts to crack down on resistance forces and the factions of “political Islam.” Despite the growing global popular sympathy with the resistance and GS, the influential powers in international politics continue to back Israel and cover up its siege, aggression, and massacres, and continue to prevent any possibility to translate the resistance’s performance into political gains.
Thus, the ongoing battle in GS, as much as it opens up opportunities, brings up threats and challenges. Regional and international powers will seek to invalidate the resistance’s achievements, and will be keen for a Palestinian party committed to the peace process and the Oslo Accords to take over in GS, and run it according to the same criteria acceptable to the Occupation in the WB.
Thus, what will be presented to Hamas and the resistance forces could be “a defeat that tastes like victory,” so to speak, if the outputs of the war are not dealt with properly. The battle constituted great leverage for the resistance, but those who do not believe in resistance must not be allowed to reap its “spoils.”
To overcome this potential risk, focus must be placed not only on a truce with the Occupation that would end the blockade, but also on readjusting internal arrangements related to Palestinian reconciliations and the Palestinian administration, where:
1. The presidency and the national consensus government pledges to abide by the spirit of the reconciliation agreement, especially with respect to accommodating and representing all the segments and factions of the Palestinian people. This applies to active participation in running the PLO and PA institutions in WB and GS, and to accommodating the civil servants in GS appointed by the former government led by Isma‘il Haniyyah.
2. All factions, PLO leadership, and the PA must declare that the resistance weapons are a red line, and that they would not be exposed to the prospect of being removed or prosecuted by any party.
3. The joint Interim Leadership Framework of the Palestinian factions must be reactivated, becoming the only entity authorized to lead and guide, until the PLO leadership is re-formed on a sound footing.
4. President Mahmud ‘Abbas and the PA leadership must declare clearly that they are not part of the war on the so-called “political Islam.”
5. Reforms of the PA agencies in Ramallah must be launched, freedoms must be unshackled, and the rebuilding of PLO must be started, in parallel with the process of the handover of the national consensus government in GS.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 27/8/2014