Behind the Veils of Hamas
Once again, the domestic Palestinian Internal chaos and anarchy has hit the headlines and the hearts of the Palestinian public. The possibility of the coming Palestinian civil war has become the focal concern and worry of all analysts and the Palestinian public. This internal confrontation and challenges to authorities and powers in Gaza might eventually lead the Palestinians to the worst future they ever envisaged.
The Palestinian public’s stand should be taken seriously in any dialogue between the confronting parties, particularly when all public sectors have taken the initiative and presented their vision for a unified Palestinian position. All of these initiatives followed the same framework: rejecting the deterioration of the situation and calling all parties to adopt a joint political agenda that will achieve a viable, secure, and sustainable Palestinian state, thus averting civil war.
Various Palestinian individuals, factions and organizations claim that the two states solution is the only possible acceptable solution and that the Palestinian National Declaration of Independence from November 1988 is the best basis for any government. These initiatives are a clear call to the Hamas government to adopt this Palestinian National vision and nothing else.
President Abbas was very right in stressing the need to go back to public with a referendum regarding this issue in this sensitive and crucial stage. The referendum might be the right and only possible tool to alleviate the internal Palestinian dispute and the conflict between Hamas and Fateh. The National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners has received wide public support for presenting a united Palestinian stand, but it lacks vision. It would be much more significant if the referendum would present a new joint Palestinian strategic vision, or "a new Palestinian platform," outlining Palestinian interests that could be used to promote a Palestinian platform globally.
Public opinion polls indicate the preferences of the public’s needs and insights. The ultimate support of the public was the pedestal behind the President's statement to the national dialogue opening meeting. The need now is to reach a consensus on a realistic Palestinian strategy and policies for the future.
The outcome of the National dialogue has apparently not yet brought the Palestinians anything more than a modest sign of good will between the different factions. It seems that it did not achieve a consensus on the basic conflict issues, and it does not look like it will present substantial and sustainable solutions for the crisis.
At the same time, the new Hamas government and its Minister of Interior are more determined to bring the situation to a bloody confrontation between the two heads of the Palestinian Authority. For both Abbas and Haniyeh it is a matter of "to be or not to be," a chance they should make the best use of. The Minister of Interior is revisiting his previous wrong decision on redeploying the so-called "support unit" in the streets of Gaza.
The mistaken decision of using unofficial forces to maintain security in Gaza is wrong and it will not bring security for the Palestinian public. This hasty decision came only as a challenge to Fateh and its affiliated members. The message is that "Hamas and only Hamas are in power and control the Authority." This has created the worst kind of situation that the Palestinian public needs these days. The unasked and unanswered questions remain, why do we need all of these armed militias in Gaza and who exactly is the enemy there?
Governing the people doesn’t mean deploying armed guerillas in the streets under the name of “creating security”. The enforcement of law and order has to be carried out by an official, legitimate, constitutionally-recognized authority, not by those who are themselves considered outlaws.
The deployment of these well-armed guerillas has proven that Hamas has worked intensively on their army. They have made great efforts to prepare this army for defending Hamas and its existence. They used the period of calm with Israel to do all their preparation in training and equipping it with personnel and arms necessary for ruling the Palestinians. This army was not prepared to fight the occupation; they were only prepared to fight the Palestinian leadership and to take over from Fateh, the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO.
President Abbas should be aware that the Palestinians do not need a new army or "new Presidential force," which will only bring additional and unnecessary financial burdens. The solution lies not in hiring more fighters, certainly not while the Palestinian leadership is unable to pay the salaries of former forces and incapable of integrating the militias into existing forces.
The new Hamas government should concentrate more on bringing substantial solutions for daily public concerns, which is the internal security in its broadest meaning - not guns in the streets. The Hamas-led government would be much better off focusing their attention and energies on the financial and economic solutions for the devastating economic situation. The Hamas-led government should start thinking of effective, realistic steps to end the Palestinian crisis. The Palestinian people and their existence should be on top of their agenda. Sacrifices are needed and the Government should start by adopting the right policies, not by sacrificing the lives of the people.
Hamas must consider changing its dogmatic stands. First they could concentrate on how to unify the Palestinian people, and if that isn’t possible, they should think more on how to prevent a civil war, even if that requires the government to resign and to call for new elections. This is not the time to challenge ourselves with dangerous internal wars. The collective interests of the Palestinian public should always be above the particular interests of any one group or faction.
Further enhancing the chaos, it seems that Hamas itself isn't unified under one leadership and one agenda. There seems to be real contradictions between the positions of the internal Hamas leadership and the external leadership in Damascus. It is becoming more apparent that there is a growing crisis inside Hamas. Moreover, it is now obvious that PM Haniyeh has not won with the full support of the Hamas leadership.
The external leadership of Hamas that controls Hamas’s militia (Al-Qasam brigades) seems to remains a higher authority than the local leadership. The local hardliners and the external leadership are working together on a different agenda which is incompatible with the National Dialogue and that will lead very soon to serious divisions inside Hamas.
Hamas’s external leadership, which is hosted by the Syrian government, is playing into the hands of Syria and Iran to serve their regional interests. This policy will exacerbate the Palestinian position and cause, and once again, the Palestinian cause will be utilized by outsiders to serve their own strategic and regional interests.
If the attempts of reaching national consensus fail, the Palestinian President should think seriously about dissolving the government and calling for an emergency government. This is not to counter Hamas and its strategy, but rather for saving the Palestinians from total destruction and an endless internal conflict. The Palestinian public is patient enough to give Hamas a limited carte blanche to prove that they are capable, but as long Hamas is not making progress, they should not forget that they are accountable to the public and the public will not wait forever while the entire society is deteriorating. They would be wise to make decisions in the best interests of securing peace and security for Palestinians and in advancing what most Palestinians want – the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable state that will live in peace with its neighbors.
* Khaled Duzdar is the Co-Director of the Strategic Affairs Unit of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information www.ipcri.org