According to Ehud Yaari, Fellow with The Washington Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel’s Channel Two television, Hamas seems intent on using Hezbollah’s “bullets plus ballots” approach to gain a military and political foothold in the West Bank, the PA, and the PLO following the formation on June 2 of the Hamas and Fatah unity government.
Yaari warns Western countries to be aware of what is really happening: instead of the PA regaining its “southern provinces” in Gaza, it is in fact Hamas reentering the “northern provinces” in the West Bank.
Commentary to Ehud Yaari’s Op-ed.
Hamas’ determination to keep control and expand its independent military forces has been stressed time and again in its declarations.
Musa Abu Marzouq, Khaled Mashal’s deputy, called Hamas’ weapons a “national resistance weapon” and stated that any discussion of security issues would be postponed until the end of the term of the interim government. Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Hamas would continue to control its military force in the Gaza Strip without linkage to the reconciliation agreement. According to a senior Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades figure military operatives employed by the Hamas administration security apparatuses would be subordinate to the military wing and not to the ministry of the interior.
Bassam al-Salhi, a PLO member of the reconciliation delegation, said that Hamas would not be asked to disarm (Qudspress.com, May 9, 2014). Abu Ahmed, spokesman for the PIJ’s terrorist wing, said the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) had an ongoing relationship with Hamas military wing and that the two organizations had a mutual understanding so that no harm would be done to the “weapon of resistance” (Quds.net, May 8, 2014). It should be noted that the PIJ is a strategic and ideological proxy of Iran, even after the crisis between Hamas and Iran concerning the Syrian civil war.
The recent history of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) proves his policy vis-à-vis the rival Islamist movement has always failed.
After his election as Chairman of the PA with 62% of the votes in January 2005 he co-opted Hamas to his government instead of fighting it, although he opposed the violent intifada and well knew Hamas’ suicide bombing strategy.
His contentious standing concerning a common Fatah election list led to the Hamas victory in the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Parliament.
His hesitant policy and lack of charisma enabled the success of the bloody military coup which brought Hamas to control the Gaza Strip.
A tired 79 years old leader who threatens to “give up the keys” of the Palestinian Authority does not look like a serious check for the younger and aggressive Hamas leadership striving to emulate the Hezbollah success story in Lebanon.
Nevertheless, it seems the United States and the European Union are not worried by the possibility that Hamas will take control of the Palestinian Authority, with all what it means for the already slim chances for a negotiating peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declared that Washington believes Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government… that does not include members affiliated with Hamas” and therefore the US will work with this government.
The European Union followed the United States by expressing willingness to work with the new Palestinian Authority unity government on condition “it sticks to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told his Twitter followers that he reached out to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and congratulated him on the PA’s new unity government with Hamas.
The American declaration was received with disappointment and deep trouble by Israeli officials and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Time will tell if this is a new strategic blunder of the United States, similar to the one which compelled Israel and the Palestinian leaders to accept Hamas’ participation at the 2006 elections.
It will be interesting to follow Egypt’s position concerning a Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood stronghold in the Palestinian Authority imitating Hezbollah and supported by Iran.