Monday, June 18, 2007

Is The Hamas Coup A Plus Or Minus?

This is musing and speculation on some of the ramifications of the Hamas coup in Gaza. I solicit your thoughts.

1. Hamas is no longer the legitimate government of the Palestinian people, Abbas having dissolved the government and appointed a new Prime Minister under emergency conditions. But, Hamas now, for the first time, has full responsibility for all aspects of governing the Palestinians in Gaza. Western aid will immediately flow to the West Bank and the new Abbas government but Gaza will see little if any of that. I cannot see Hamas, wholly surrounded by an unfriendly Egyptian government and a mortal enemy in Israel, being able to do much for the residents of Gaza - beyond imposing security and Sharia law.

2. Hamas is in a position of extreme weakness. Gaza’s water and electricity is controlled by Israel. Even with all the economic support in the world from Iran, no water and no electricity in a small plot of land with over 1,500,000 people is a disaster but a flick of some switches away. The next rocket coming across the border could send Gaza’s living conditions into the tank. Israel need not invade Gaza to hold life and death control over the society and to make any offensives by Hamas untenable.

3. While a majority of people in Gaza voted for Hamas, does that mean that they look forward to the mini-caliphate that they now find themselves under? Hamas ran on two prongs – one, providing services to Palestinians compliments of foreign funding, and two, not being as corrupt as Fatah. They did not run a campaign about imposing Sharia law of which I am aware. And how will they treat the concept of democracy in Gaza now that they have power? Palestinians in Gaza subject to decades of secular rule have just had it come to an end. It will be interesting to see how the populace takes to this in the long term, particularly if the West Bank Palestinians begin to thrive in a freer secular environment.

On a related note, there are about a thousand alleged Fatah supporters camped at the border crossing with Israel who are seeking to go to the West Bank. "Israel’s deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, told Israel Radio that those whose lives were deemed in danger would be taken out through Israel. But he added, about the others, "No one knows for sure who these people are. We can assume they are people who don’t want to be in Gaza. Pretty soon there will be 1.5 million people who don’t want to be in Gaza."

4. Hamas by itself will not get the aid dollars they need to stay afloat. This will seriously strain the already troubled economy Hamas’s major patron, Iran. And how long will Iran support Hamas if Hamas does not take an active role in attacking Israel?

5. Abbas, though no friend of Israel, has, to his credit, long been a vocal opponent of the second intifada but lacked the strength necessary to challenge Hamas and the more radical elements. Now, with control over Palestinians in the West Bank and a much stronger security posture compliments of the IDF, Abbas may actually have a chance to develop a true Palestinian alternative with a viable economy. The flip side is that Iran, Hamas, Syria and possibly others will be intent on doing all they can to prevent this from happening. Expect the next round of suicide bombings in Ramallah.

6. If there is a real and lasting split between the Hamas contingent and Palestinians interested in developing an economy and a life, this would be a great disaster for many of the surrounding countries who have long used their influence and money to grossly manipulate the Palestinians for half a century. Indeed, "Abbas is already under pressure from some Arab governments, in particular the Saudis, who mediated the national-unity government at Mecca, to take Hamas at its word and try to recreate a shared government. In a speech on Friday to an emergency meeting of the Arab League, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia said, "The Palestinians have come close to putting by themselves the last nail in the coffin of the Palestinian cause." To the extent that the "Palestinian cause" is the one defined by the Muslim Brotherhood and the salafists of Saudi Arabia – to support suicide bombers, to keep the Palestinians in poverty, to claim Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as the cause of all misery in the Middle East, etc., then one can only hope that Faisal is accurate.

Feel free to chip in with your thoughts. All in all, in the world of unintended consequences, the Hamas coup has the potential of being a very positive event for Israel and West Bank Palestinians and a real problem for Hamas and Iran.

1 comment:

kawbwebz said...

Outstanding analysis Scott, Jules Crittenden also came to some similar conclusions, later than you. I’ve been reading like mad on this. This has been an extremely rare event that needs to be studied. It as if we have a particle accelerator for the elements of jihad.

“As the fighting in Gaza reached its horrific fever pitch last week, it was hard to know which side to cheer for.” by Jules Crittenden

Personally, I’ve been stuck on the more pessimistic side that sees this leading to a quick war with Israel before Hamas can be destroyed. But you are right, if Hamas does not start war soon, Iran will likely cut aid. And Crittenden makes and the excellent point that Fatah is spreading the money around from its new friends in DC and Europe making Hamas look like beggars. It is even paying salaries in Gaza.

Your point that Israel controls water and electrity is a strategic disaster for Hamas. Israel also is their only source of Gasoline.
And Israel can militarily enter Gaza to take out any Hamas threat with no global outcry. Crittenden says Hamas has "taken themselves hostage".

You also make the excellent prediction that the next suicide bombings will be in Ramallah, not Israel. I’ve read there are sleeper cells in the West Bank and underground car bomb factories. This is very bad. The Arab world must finally see what is at play here. Iran and Syria have shown that they want to make the cost in human lives so great the west backs down—backs down from saving Palestinian civilization. Iran and Syria have other plans for it. Syria is currently diverting the Lebanese Army from the Southern border to the north to fight the Palestinian group Fatah al Islam.

Oh, and Jimmy Carter thinks we should fund Hamas.

Carter's Nutzpah


Posted 6/19/2007


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