Hamas making mistakes
The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement experienced a surge. Major supermarket chains kicked Israeli-made produce from their shelves, countries recalled their ambassadors to Israel and sectors of the West’s mainstream media appeared to drop their ingrained pro-Israel bias. Numerous British parliamentary members chastised Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in the House of Commons; some calling for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
President Barack Obama was unusually outspoken, warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to use disproportionate force and the Pentagon reflected those concerns by suspending delivery of a shipload of munitions that could be used against Palestinians.
The Israeli government found itself on the back foot for the first time in recent history. This was when Hamas’ negotiators should have struck a deal in Cairo, even one that didn’t give them everything on their wish list and especially in light of the fact that the Egyptian proposal is the only one currently on the table supported by Israel in spite of efforts by some countries to undermine it in order to prevent Egypt from reassuming its regional leadership role.
Hamas failed to strike when the iron was hot. Instead, its leadership chose to hold out for a complete and immediate lifting of the blockade. Nobody can argue that the Palestinian residents of Gaza don’t have the right to live in freedom like most others on the planet. Nobody can argue that Israel’s siege of the Strip infringes international law and has brought about a humanitarian tragedy. But at the same time, as long as the US continues to allow Israel to do its worst with impunity, Hamas should have drank the sour cup of real politic with the realization that all its demands wouldn’t be met in one day and one night. Holding out may seem to some as a mark of courage and nobility, but is it when 1.8 million Palestinians are living in fear, their children traumatized and so many have lost loved ones under the rubble of their homes?
By turning down or violating 11 cease-fires, Hamas has given Israelis the impression that either its word cannot be trusted or it is unable to control the other militant groups in Gaza. The rockets fired at Israel during the last 24-hour truce eliciting an immediate Israeli retaliation amount to a gross miscalculation. Whatever pressure is heaped on Israel from foreign entities or governments will not trump its security concerns. On the contrary, rockets simply fire Israeli Cabinet right wingers to urge Netanyahu to go ahead and “finish the job.”
Indeed, this does appear to be the prevailing mood in Tel Aviv.
Last month, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the assassination of Hamas’ political leader Khalid Mashaal, currently based in Doha, as well as other top Hamas figures. That plan is currently being implemented. The head of the Qassim Brigades, the organization’s military wing, narrowly escaped death when his home was bombed; his wife and child didn’t. A few days ago, three senior Hamas commanders were victims of Israeli airstrikes, prompting Hamas to execute 18 “Israeli collaborators,” 11 in public as a warning to spies; a father and son were both hanged. Summary executions do nothing for Hamas’ image and play into Netanyahu’s propagandist accusations that Hamas, Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State are a cut from the same ideological cloth. Now, Israel is warning Palestinians to get out of buildings and areas where militants are known to be operating.
Extrajudicial killings ordered by Hamas were condemned by the Palestinian Authority, whose renewed détente with Hamas has been unbreakable until now. PA presidency’s Secretary-General Tayeb Abdel Rahim described “random executions” unlawful and offensive “to our people and our families because the suspects were not given fair trials. He further slammed Hamas for putting Gazans under house arrest and shooting them in the foot, ostensibly for the crime of urging acceptance of a cease-fire agreement. An alleged plot by Hamas to topple the Palestinian Authority, take over the West Bank and ignite a Third Intifada, as reported by the New York Post, has placed a further strain on the Hamas-PA relationship.
Former President Jimmy Carter called for Hamas to be recognized by the international community as a legitimate political party, a call that was gaining traction. As things stand today, the iron may have irretrievably cooled. Gaza has been bumped from newspaper front page headlines in favor of Iraq, Ukraine and Ebola and there is no more rolling coverage on most major English-language networks. Following the death of an Israeli child, Netanyahu is vowing to intensify the air assault and, at the time of writing, has not responded to Egypt’s call for renewed negotiations in Cairo.
There is a glimmer of hope. The UN is working on a binding Security Council Resolution that would prevent Hamas and other militant groups from rearming and give the Palestinian Authority control of Gaza in partnership with international monitors. It’s hoped that this would allow for Gaza’s opening up to the world and for reconstruction to begin. But binding or not, backed by the US or not, without compliance from the parties concerned, such resolution will just be another piece of paper destined for the round file.
Email: [email protected]
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view