June 19, 2007

Beware Of Getting Your Wishes, Hamas Version

Hamas finally got what it wanted last week -- unfettered control of Palestinian territory and an end to Fatah opposition to its radical-Islamist agenda. The coup that Hamas conducted, and their operations to cleanse Gaza of Fatah, turned out more successful than they hoped. In fact, they succeeded to the point where the West Bank government has outlawed them and refuse to even negotiate for a reconciliation, putting Gaza in deep isolation and endangering Hamas' status with Palestinians in both territories.

Now they want to kiss and make up:

Facing growing international isolation, the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday called for a "national dialogue" with their vanquished Fatah foes.

"We are shocked and surprised by the voices forbidding discussions with us, while they enter discussions with Israel," Khalil al-Haya, a prominent Hamas lawmaker, said at a news conference. "We are still prepared for a brotherly serious and responsible national dialogue."

The statement followed a decision made by Fatah's top leadership body to cut off all contacts with Hamas, a participant said. The decision was made in a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, said Azzam al-Ahmed.

"The Fatah Central Committee decided today not to conduct any kind of contact, dialogue or meetings with Hamas unless it ends its military coup in Gaza and restores the situation to normal," al-Ahmed said. "Fatah will have no relationship with Hamas on any level."

"Brotherly and serious dialogue" got tossed out the window by Hamas when they conducted an armed insurrection in Gaza. It's inconceivable that Fatah would allow Hamas to operate in the West Bank after that; Abbas would have to be insane to give them an invitation to repeat their coup there. Suggesting such a relationship shows that either Hamas wants to fool the Palestinians or are fooling themselves, or perhaps equal measures of both.

Khaled Mashaal has seriously miscalculated this time. In one fell swoop, he alleviated Abbas of all the baggage in the Palestinian Authority He no longer has the responsibility for dealing with the catastrophe in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal. Hamas has to figure out how to feed 1.5 million people during an international embargo that only got worse this week. Even other Arab countries won't help Hamas after their armed rebellion.

And now, Abbas can get all the international aid for himself and his organization. Free of Hamas, the West can now lift their sanctions; the US already has. That means that Abbas will start paying salaries again, bringing in food, and establishing (unfortunately) a patronage system that will only strengthen his political power. Anyone who wants to eat in the West Bank will eschew Hamas in favor of Fatah, or hopefully an even more moderate and rational organization.

Hamas just got stuck with the short end of the stick, and now they want to renegotiate the deal they themselves forced on Abbas. I think they'll be a long time waiting for a brotherly response from the people they stabbed in the back ... and shot in the head .. and threw off the tops of buildings.


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Comments (11)

Posted by wolfwalker | June 19, 2007 9:41 AM

I'd really like to believe this, Ed. I'd also like to believe that after this revolt by Hamas, Abbas will see the error of his own ways and start to really move in the direction of peaceful coexistence with Israel.

Unfortunately, both those hopes founder on one ugly fact: these are Palestinian Arabs we're talking about. Like somebody said, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Posted by feeblemind | June 19, 2007 9:51 AM

It is a mistake to give Abbas aid. Fatah wants Israel destroyed as well. There is no path to peace through Fatah.

Posted by wolfwalker | June 19, 2007 9:54 AM

Sorry, I forgot to finish the thought:

Now that Hamas is isolated in Gaza and Fatah runs the West Bank, the "Palestinian civil war" is effectively over. Fatah is flush with cash and can get back to its normal business of killing Jews. Meanwhile, Hamas can't do anything about the situation in Gaza except double down with the Arafat Strategy writ large: launch an all-out terrorism assault on Israel, then offer that if the UN bails Gaza out, the attacks will stop. This will have the added effect of showing that Hamas is better at killing Jews and conning the infidels than Fatah is, reinforcing Hamas's political position among the Palestinians who care more about killing Jews than they do about staying alive themselves.

In short, nothing of consequence will actually change as a result of this "Palestinian civil war."

Posted by TomB | June 19, 2007 10:01 AM

So, when we are going to insist on free and democratic elections again. Because right now we run with bilions to support exactly who and why? And what do we want them to do in return?

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2007 10:15 AM

The only country that might help Hamas is Iran, and that is a stretch even considering that Iran is already isolated. One thing Fatah could do is expel all Hamas members from the West Bank, eliminating as many internal threats to their party as possible, letting the Hamas “government“ of Gaza live like beggars on humanitarian aid.

Posted by naftali | June 19, 2007 11:53 AM

I don't think things are going to go as you say. My feeling is the capture of Gaza, no matter what Hamas says, is only half of their plans, in this stage, in the grand scheme of destroying Israel. Thus far the Iranian backed groups are showing superior strategic skills. They are going to take over the West Bank as well. Even if Abbas can pay salaries, I still think bullets trump that. They know only one move--murder. And they only apply that move when the feel that the West will not confront them afterwards. Thus far they have been the better judge of history.

Posted by cheeflo | June 19, 2007 12:35 PM

What exactly is "a prominent Hamas lawmaker"?

With masks and AK-47s, they're all pretty prominent, but I wouldn't call them lawmakers. Enforcers, maybe, but lawmakers? No.

Posted by Adjoran | June 19, 2007 12:47 PM

It's not so simple as "East and West Palestine," as Charles Krauthammer described it. Remember that Fatah only barely eked out an election victory over Hamas in the West Bank, so their control may not be absolute or enduring.

It is more correct to say Hamas has won Gaza (a place so dismal it makes Calcutta look like a tourist attraction), and the power struggle has shifted to the West Bank now.

I agree with Ed: it's difficult to see how Fatah can come to the table for "brotherly" talks after their Hamas "brothers" have executed so many of their people in cold blood.

Posted by NahnCee | June 19, 2007 1:35 PM

I'm wondering if Hamas is going to keep shooting rockets into Israel.

I'm also wondering just how "cut off" from the rest of the world Hamas is if they still have the tunnels they've been using to smuggle in guns and stuff.

We can, and should, starve Hamas to death rather than wasting time and effort on going after them at once, but the rattlesnake can still bite after its head has been cut off ... at least for a little whle.

Posted by elrushbuni | June 19, 2007 9:18 PM

Sooner or later Fatah will turn back against Israel and resume relations with Hamas ...Israel is the enemy of both and not part of the Islamic "cause" ...it goes against their religion to diss each other they way they have been doing....If there are divisive forces at work here, they're doing a good job !

Posted by davod | June 21, 2007 5:49 AM

Most of the Fatah ratbags killed were low level. I Hamas was serious about decapitating Fatah surely the would have attacked the Fatah hierarchy.

Strange that the hierarchy of even the security and military wings of Fatah got away.

Bushco and Ohlmert moved very quickly to switch on the money to Fatah.

Fatah has already stated that they would use some of the new funding to supply humanitartian aid to Gaza.

Useful dupes sounds like the right term for Bush and Ohlmert.