Hamas is quietly backing the bid by its arch-rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to win recognition of statehood from the United Nations this month because the movement stands to gain no matter how Abbas’ plans turn out, analysts said.
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Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ deputy political bureau chief criticized Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, for not consulting Hamas. But the Islamic movement, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and opposes the existence of Israel, has officially refrained from taking a position on statehood.
For the movement silence is golden: If the statehood vote is successful, Hamas can bask in the glow, many analysts said. The movement could even inherit a UN-recognized state next spring if Palestinian elections go ahead as scheduled and Hamas wins. If the statehood drive fails, Abbas can suffer the humiliation of defeat alone.
“In the inner circle, Hamas figures are skeptical the bid will succeed. They actually very much hope that Abu Mazen fails in his bid to attain a Palestinian state because that would then delegitimize him and his approach and strengthen Hamas and its resistance approach,” Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, told The Media Line. “But if he succeeds, Hamas will say, ‘From the beginning we were not against it’.”
The two sides disagree on how to deal with Israel. Hamas hopes to defeat
the Jewish state through violence while Abbas favors a negotiated
solution. When direct peace talks with Israel stalled last year, he
shifted his focus on a bid to win UN recognition for a Palestinian
state. If that drive doesn’t succeed, he will be left with no other
non-violent option, a dead end Hamas might profit from.
movements, which both claim to be the official Palestinian government,
reached an agreement four months ago to reconcile and form an interim
government of technocrats that would rule both the West Bank and Gaza
until elections. But those talks have all but unraveled.
most recent opinion polls have shown support for Hamas on the decline. A
survey by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center in June found
that 26.5% preferred a Fatah-majority government and 12.5% preferred one
led by Hamas, while the majority (50.8%) wanted to see a government of
Jamil Rabah, director of the Ramallah-based
polling group Near East Consulting, said their monthly surveys have
shown a dramatic drop in support for Hamas since January 2011.
have seen a big drop of support for Hamas, to 10% compared with 35%
for Fatah, 5% for other parties. About 40 to 45% still non-aligned. You
would be shocked if you saw our graphs. It has been on a downward scale
for the past five years from 40% to 12% or 10% today while the support
for Fatah has remained constant,” Rabah told The Media Line.
that doesn’t mean if there were elections that Hamas would lose. Hamas
might win because there is a difference between attitude and behavior,”
This scenario is exactly why Boaz Ganor, the
director of Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism
(ICT), Abbas is adamant about pursuing statehood, even though he risks
losing U.S. financial assistance. The president is more concerned with
how he is remembered in the history books.
“[Abbas] is looking
around and he sees what is being called the Arab Spring and he sees all
of his old friends that used to walk together with them on the red
carpets. One of them is in a cage, another is being hanged and the third
one is going to be hanged,” Ganor told The Media Line. “He doesn’t want
to end that way”
“He’s interested in how the history books will
write that under his term the Palestinian state was established or
declared actually. That is his only purpose,” Ganor said. “He wants this
declaration to be remembered as the one he was responsible for.”
Abbas enjoys a 22% confidence rating, the highest among major
Palestinian leaders. But he has announced he will not run again in the
next election, set for May. Despite the public opinion polls, Ganor
predicted that Hamas would win the elections and also the presidency.
quite convinced that there is no other figure in the Fatah organization
that actually can win the election facing Hamas,” Ganor said.
Abusada said a Hamas victory in the next election would find them with a prize of international recognition won by Abbas.
most tangible benefit for the Hamas in this UN bid would be if they
were to win an election in the future and be on top of a Palestinian
state, which was achieved by Abbas and not Hamas,” Abusada said.
was more blunt. “Hamas knows two things; Abu Mazen is going to bring
them the declaration of a Palestinian state they would never have been
able to get from the international community and a few months after that
they are going to get the keys to the Palestinian Authority and the
international civilized Western liberalized societies will say ‘What do
you want? Those guys won the free election. They have been
However, the pollster Rabah wasn’t so sure.
Hamas may win on the PLC (Palestine Legislative Council) level, I doubt
it would do so on the presidential level because they don’t have a
strong candidate,” Rabah said. “Fatah can generate someone and there are
quite a number of well respected people while among Hamas the only one
who has even slight credibility is Ismail Haniyyah,” he said, referring
to the Hamas prime minister.
According to the Near East
Consulting poll, Haniyyah pulled a 13.6% confidence rating, making him
the second most-trusted leader after Abbas. The third place went to
Fatah’s Marwan Barghouthi, currently in an Israeli prison, with 6.8%