Facing an unreformed Hamas

The current Gaza dynamic may spell the demise of Abbas’s effort to engineer a rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas.

Armed Hamas members celebrate Mubarak resignation 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Armed Hamas members celebrate Mubarak resignation 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
The Palestinian Authority’s leadership is seeking rapprochement with Hamas. PA President Mahmoud Abbas said last week he was prepared to travel to the Gaza Strip to end the rift that divides the Palestinians. The PA president has even appealed to Egypt’s new leaders to facilitate such a meeting. Abbas’s declared goal is to create a unity government and prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections.
To get a better understanding of the sort of organization being courted by the Fatah leadership, it would be instructive to revisit the Hamas Charter, the terrorist group’s single most important declaration of ideological principles.
First drafted in 1988, Hamas won the last Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006 on a platform based on the charter’s central tenets, including the declaration that the conflict with Israel is religious and can only be solved by the expulsion of the Jewish “infidels” through jihad or armed struggle.
A perusal of the charter, still printed and distributed in its original form wherever Hamas hopes to enlist new faithful to its blighted cause, reveals a nightmarish array of anti-Semitic anathemas, incriminations and incitement.
Israeli treatment of Palestinians – particularly women and children – is compared to Nazism. The Zionists’ territorial aspiration is said to extend “to the Nile and the Euphrates” and their “plot” for world domination is purportedly accurately detailed in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In Hamas’s psychotic world, where fact and sick fantasy are indistinguishable, Jews are responsible for the French and Communist revolutions, to name just two. Perhaps the most sinisterly bizarre claim is that Jews exercise their international influence through such benign organizations as the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. The self-evident stated conclusion of all these noxious lies is that “abandoning the jihad with the Zionists is an act of high treason which brings a curse on whoever does so.”
True to its charter, Hamas, whose name was synonymous in the 1990s and early 2000s with suicide bombings, has in recent days renewed its mortar and rocket fire against Israeli civilians in southern Israel. This new wave of bombardment, the largest since the end of Operation Cast Lead over two years ago, comes less than a week after naval Commando 13 forces intercepted the Victoria. The ship’s lethal cargo, earmarked for Gaza’s Islamist terrorists, included hundreds of large mortar shells and thousands of smaller ones, two British-made radar systems and tens of thousands of bullets for Kalashnikov rifles. Most significant, however, were the Iranian-supplied C-704 anti-ship missiles equipped with radars and capable of accuracy at a range of up to 35 kilometers.
THE PA has pragmatic reasons for desiring reconciliation with Hamas, which Abbas is courting without demanding that it revamp any of its “principles.” Grassroots pressure in both Gaza and the West Bank has been growing for the two Palestinian leaderships to put aside their differences.
In recent days, thousands have taken to the streets in Facebook-organized rallies. Abbas does not want to be blamed for the continued split.
But Palestinian unity involving an unreformed Hamas would have supremely negative ramifications for the prospects of a two-state solution. No Israeli government could contemplate entering into negotiations with a Palestinian government coalition that includes Hamas.
Indeed, the very fact that the PA is showing a willingness for political cooperation with Hamas with no preconditions – such as the requirement that Hamas abandon its commitment to armed struggle against Israel – and that this move is so popular among Palestinians, underlines the considerable obstacles facing Israel in its pursuit of peace with its Palestinian neighbors.
THE FACT is, however, that Hamas – at least its military wing and its Damascus-based leadership – has no real interest in rapprochement with Fatah.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out Sunday, Hamas’s decision to escalate mortar fire on Israel was motivated by a desire to divert attention from its waning popularity in Gaza. Fearful that a popular PA-led campaign for unity could undermine their hold over Gaza, Hamas has renewed mortar attacks in the hope of dragging Israel into a military offensive. The inevitable and unintentional civilian casualties resulting from such an offensive, the Islamists anticipate, would galvanize support for Hamas.
The current Gaza dynamic may spell the demise of Abbas’s effort to engineer a rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas. Dismally, however, it is also exposing Israelis living in proximity to Gaza to the sort of attacks that preceded Operation Cast Lead.