Hamas is impervious to change in Gaza

All that Hamas wants from Israel is an extended truce so that it can strengthen its control on Gaza.

In Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are behaving as if nothing has changed for 51 years.

That was when the Arab side was defeated in the 1967 war. During all this time, some people adapted to changing circumstances but others refused to learn anything from that defeat.

Had Hamas and Islamic Jihad learnt from such bitter experiences, they would have probably taken a different path to working towards lifting the illegal and brutal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip that has been in place for more than 10 years. It needs to be lifted now rather than to keep giving Israel excuses for maintaining it.

Let’s be clear about the “Freedom Boat” incident at the end of May. Sending people seeking medical attention abroad and students wanting to join their universities on a fishing boat to Cyprus will not succeed in breaching Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza nor will it stop the siege.

What will end the blockade is common sense. Common sense, however, says that firing a missile at Israel from Gaza is good news only to Binyamin Netanyahu. Similar incidents gave former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon an excuse to decide to withdraw Israeli troops from Gaza in the summer of 2005 so he could get a better grip on the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This is what was learnt from a lengthy interview given by Sharon’s senior adviser, Dov Weissglass, to the Israeli daily Haaretz. Weissglass explained that the Israeli “disengagement plan” from Gaza was intended to freeze the peace process and give Israel the opportunity to focus on colonising the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel, at that time, could not have cared less about occupying the Gaza Strip and was ready to let it rot at any time.

In negotiations leading to the 1993 Oslo agreement, Yasser Arafat insisted that Israel must withdraw from both Gaza and Jericho in the West Bank at the same time. He was always keen on keeping Gaza and the West Bank together as one package in any peace negotiations. Israel would have been happy to drop Gaza anytime and let the sea wash it away. Clearly, Hamas’s actions in Gaza have added weight to this kind of thinking that had found its most brutal expression in the inhumane blockade against Gaza.

One can’t deny that Hamas fell head first into Israel’s trap. Hamas wants to turn Gaza into a military base with the purpose of liberating the Palestinian territories “from the sea to the river” but it has only succeeded in transforming life in Gaza into a tragedy. Now all that Hamas wants from Israel is an extended truce so that it can strengthen its control on Gaza after it had turned it into a Taliban-type Islamic emirate.

With the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2013, Hamas suddenly became interested in just lifting the blockade. Let’s think about that. Can Hamas’s military might match that of Israel such that it allows it to negotiate a long truce?

It is true that Israel might be interested in an extended truce with Hamas because that would drive it a separation wedge between Gaza and the West Bank but who would guarantee that more advanced missiles will not end up in Gaza during the truce?

To make things worse, the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza took part in the last missile campaign against Israel from Gaza. Islamic Jihad takes orders directly from Iran and Hamas is often willing to go along with Iranian objectives.

In any case, Hamas is not in a position to negotiate for an extended truce. It refuses to learn from the school of hard knocks and lives on the ideological fantasies fed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas needs to look for another approach to breaking the Gaza blockade. This blockade is no longer politically useful to it anyway. Gazan society has undergone significant changes because of the blockade and the social situation in Gaza could explode in Hamas’s face. Hamas needs to maintain its relations with Egypt and, therefore, must give up the dream of turning Gaza into a back base for the Muslim Brotherhood.

We are by no means asking Hamas to surrender to Israel. We only want it to remember there are means to lift the blockade on Gaza other than missiles, weapons and tunnels. True, the Palestinian Authority is arranging the transition to post-Abbas era in the West Bank. That is why Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian Authority intelligence, met with Mike Pompeo in Washington when the latter was still head of the CIA.

One word summarises Hamas’s policy in Gaza: bankruptcy. An escalation leading to a new military confrontation with Israel is not the best political choice. Any war with Israel will be lost before it starts. Hamas claimed that it had given up Muslim Brotherhood ideology but obviously it hasn’t.

Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer.

Copyright ©2018 The Arab Weekly.