5 December 2006






The PalestinianIsraeli Arenas

What a Coherent Strategy for Peace Would Look Like?

Walid Salem


Different strategies exist dealing with the PalestinianIsraeli current conflict realities. One of them is characterized by adopting the traditional approach of supporting the Palestinian moderates led by the Palestinian President Abu-Mazen, including rebuilding the Presidential Guards Units, and the other security departments that are linked to him.

The second opposite strategy is that one supporting Hamas government in order to promote the path leading to the Islamization of Palestine and the region.

In between these two contradictory trends, there is a third seeking to work with both Abu-Mazen and Hamas in order to get to a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The first trend is creating a tense situation of polarization trying to push Abu-Mazen in one hand in the path of dissolving the Palestinian Hamas led government with the justification of its failure to meet with the conditions of the Quartet. Indeed such position if taken by Abu-Mazen will be a recipe for civil war, as also Mahmmoud Al-Zahhar the Palestinian’s Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated lately. The armament of the Presidential Guards Unit is understood to be one of the methods used in order to push the Palestinians towards civil war with the hope to crush Hamas in such a war!

The second strategy look like as gaining more ground in the last month, by the success of Hamas to lift the Arabic and Islamic commitment to the sanctions against the government. This development to be sure was an outcome not only of Hamas diplomacy, but more importantly an outcome of the indirect help that Hamas got from the Israeli government via the crimes against the Palestinian civilians in Beit-Hanoun in Gaza. This crime created Arabic-Islamic reaction, leading the Arabs and Islamic Countries to lift the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Government.

With these sanctions lift Hamas felt encouraged. They felt at that moment that they don’t need the President Abu-Mazen anymore in order to help them lift the sanctions. Therefore, they decided to stop the dialogue with Abu-Mazen about the composition of National Unity Government, and to preserve their current government as it is, while trying at the same time to get more support to that government through the Arabic and Islamic door, that was opened to them after Beit-Hanoun crime.

With this shift in Hamas tactics, Hamas made new signals about its future moves including (but not excluded to) the following: Giving Abu-Mazen the green light to have reciprocal ceasefire in Gaza with the possibility to be extended to the West Bank later on. Addressing the Egyptians in order to handle the indirect Hamas-Israel negotiations about the conditions of releasing the Israeli kidnapped soldier Gila’ad Shalit (Read: Mashal visit followed by Hanieh visit to Cairo in the last ten days of the previous month). Mashal-Hanieh initiative to give the world six months (the period was extended later on through statements by both of them) in order to bring a state to the Palestinian people. Then Hanieh repeatedly statements that he allows the Palestine ministers to meet with their Israeli colleagues in order to discuss the life daily issues. Then Hanieh travel abroad aiming for more breaking in the sanctions.

This Hamas tactical shifts leads to the following conclusions:

First: That Hamas is promoting now its already two years Mumana’ah line (an Abstaining from making any concessions) as an alternative to the Muqawamah (Resistance) line.

Second: With that Hamas is also running indirect negotiations with the Israeli Kadima government. The released information tell that it is about the release of Gila’ad Shalit, but Mashal and Hanieh talks in Cairo about a Palestinian State might indicate that these indirect contacts might went further to issues beyond Gela’ad Shalit matter. The Israeli declaration of decreasing the attacks against Palestinians in West Bank in December the 4th, might give also another indication in that direction, supported by the news about possible Israeli withdrawal from five cities in West Bank, and the stoppage of chasing the wanted people, lifting checkpoints and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Third: That Hamas want to use the Arabs (mainly now Egypt). In order to get to a political breakthrough in its relations with the West (Hanieh said in Cairo last week that the Palestine government will be looking for Egypt and Jordan help in order to lift the political sanctions against the Palestinian government as he called them.

Fourth: With these successes of Hamas, Abu-Mazen and Fatah will pay the price in both the short term and the long term. In the short term Fatah already surrendered through Saeb Ericat statement this week stating that “If Hamas government succeeded in lifting the sanctions there will be no reason to dissolve it by the President”. In the long term it is also became clear that Hamas is getting back (At least for the time being) to its traditional strategy, as a Muslim-brotherhood movement between 1967 to 1987 when it was concentrating on the internal Palestine issues more than the issues of fighting against Israel. In the specifics of the current realities which are different than the period of 1967 to 1987, Hamas will implement its new internal strategy through becoming more harsh with Abu-Mazen and Fatah, preparing to get the position of the President in the next elections, and from there move to take over the PLO.

In order to succeed in this strategy Hamas is trying to show some political flexibility in order to get the Arab and the international legitimacy. Mashal said few months ago: “If somebody will suggest me as a heir of Yaser Arafat leading the Palestinian people, I will accept such a suggestion”. He means that and he knows what the political price that he might need to pay in order to get to such a position.

If this analysis proved to be right, then the conclusion will be that Hamas will prevent Abu-Mazen from negotiating with Israel, while it will in the other hand try to conduct these negotiations directly with the Israelis when it comes to the daily matters (Including the ceasefire issues also), and indirectly via Egypt when it comes to the political negotiations, with the hope that also Jordan might help in this, while Jordan is still abstaining from doing that, saying that they support the Palestinian President Abu-Mazen.

This process if continued will mean in one hand Hamas move from the field of fundamentalism to the field of real politics, but in second hand the secular and semi secular politics of Fatah will be defeated and ousted. A coherent strategy to deal with that will not be through supporting Abu-Mazen financially and by security means in a way that will help Hamas showing him as a “collaboratorwith the West against his own people, and therefore, he will lose the civil war that is supposedly will be planned in order to crush Hamas!

In the opposite a workable strategy will require assisting Abu-Mazen by a permanent status agreement that will bring something tangible to the Palestinian people, and therefore lead them to abstain from continuing supporting Hamas, that a lot of them support only because they do not see a hope in the horizon. The last “offer” of the Prime Minister Olmert can be considered a starter if it is a first step, but if it will be presented as a proposal for a final status agreement, it will not help moving along on the path of strengthening the moderates and weakening the maximalists, that is because it does not include solutions to the Jerusalem and refugee issues, and also the issue of full withdrawal from West Bank, or the swap as an alternative.

If a real process for permanent status will be initiated with Abu-Mazen, accompanied with a track for the moderation and democratization of Hamas, then a coherent strategy will be on leading to a real solution. In order to do that it will be an urgent need to move from the two polarization positions to the third of positive communication.



* Jerusalem


* Special to Safe Democracy


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