Hamas gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Hamas is under pressure. The terrorist organization’s relations with Egypt were
not particularly good even under president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim
Brotherhood. Now the situation has gone from bad to worse after Egypt’s military
junta forcibly took power away from the Brotherhood.
military has launched a major offensive along the border between the Gaza Strip
and Egypt as part of a larger campaign to rein in the lawless Sinai Peninsula.
Egyptian forces have stepped up the bulldozing of tunnels – the lifelines
connecting Gaza’s economy to the outside world – which are thought to be escape
routes used by Islamists and Beduin after staging attacks on Egyptian soldiers
Accounts from inside Gaza tell a story of severe economic
hardship for many Gazans. Popular uprisings and the strengthening of Salafist or
global jihad groups within Gaza are a real possibility.
Egypt has, of
course, refused to upgrade relations with Gaza, leaving Hamastan in its
pariahdom status. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy warned last month of a
“harsh response” if Hamas in any way threatened Egypt’s national security. Gazan
fishermen have been repeatedly harassed for approaching Egypt’s maritime
On the West Bank, meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has
reasserted itself, garnering extensive media coverage and international support
for its willingness to return to the negotiating table with Israel. PA President
Mahmoud Abbas made headlines after telling German Deutsche Welle TV that
negotiations have not reached a dead end and insisted that though there was
strong Palestinian opposition, he spoke for the entire Palestinian
And the PA has tangible results to show for its willingness to
talk. So far, 26 Palestinian prisoners – most of whom are terrorist murderers
responsible for the deaths of innocent Israelis – were released in the first of
three stages of prisoner releases. Two more groups of prisoners are to be
released in coming months.
Hamas, in contrast, is on the decline on the
Since 2006, when the main Palestinian Islamist party won a
sweeping victory in local elections in most West Bank cities, Hamas has
gradually become a persecuted, marginal movement with dwindling public
Just in recent weeks the PA raided the homes of leading Hamas
and Islamic Jihad activists and launched an operation to track down Islamists in
Nor has Hamas succeeded in opening official offices outside Gaza.
Last month, Jordan reportedly refused to accept hundreds of millions of dollars
in aid from Qatar – one of Hamas’s few supporters – in exchange for allowing
Hamas to open offices in the Hashemite Kingdom.
Just last week, senior
Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk criticized Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’s
political bureau, for choosing to side with the Syrian rebels, thus effectively
disengaging the organization from Syria.
It is on this backdrop of
political decline and conflict that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s recent
comments should be interpreted.
On Saturday, Haniyeh called on Arabs and
Muslims to prepare for what he referred to as “the great al-Aksa intifada”
against Israel. Apparently speaking out of a sense of desperation, Haniyeh
resorted to the tried and true tactic of Arab leaders of redirecting frustration
Haniyeh blamed the Jewish state for taking advantage of the
peace talks to Judaize Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque and warned that Israel
would not be able to bear the “fire and rage” that could erupt as a result of
its “crimes” against Jerusalem and the mosque.
Haniyeh’s threats should
not be taken lightly. The discovery of a long tunnel running from the outskirts
of Khan Yunis to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha – the third of its kind to be found this
year – is a reminder of Hamas’s intentions. In the warped internal logic of
Palestinian politics, a successful terror attack or a kidnapping of an Israeli
soldier or civilian would succeed in strengthening Hamas’s popularity.
the government continues to work toward a negotiated peace agreement with the
PA, we must also be wary of a Hamas that is becoming increasingly isolated and
desperate and therefore increasingly more dangerous.
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