The Le­ban­on­iza­tion of Gaza

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By HERB KEINON

Last May Ha­mas un­veiled a pol­icy doc­u­ment that nom­i­nally soft­ened its an­tisemitic po­si­tions while still call­ing for the “com­plete lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine, from the river to the sea.”

From Is­rael’s point of view, what was in­ter­est­ing about that doc­u­ment was not what was in it – be­cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion did not al­ter its ide­ol­ogy – but rather that Ha­mas felt com­pelled to is­sue it. It was widely viewed in Jerusalem as the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ef­fort to im­prove its stand­ing both in the Arab world and with cer­tain el­e­ments of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

That Ha­mas is­sued this doc­u­ment

was in­ter­preted as a sign of how bad it was hurt­ing. It took a ma­jor beat­ing in the 2014 war, liv­ing con­di­tions in­side Gaza were dire, Egypt had turned against it, and its tra­di­tional spon­sors – Egypt’s Mus­lim Brother­hood, Qatar and Turkey – all had ma­jor prob­lems of their own. Ha­mas felt that one way to per­haps im­prove its po­si­tion was to is­sue what might be per­ceived to be a new char­ter.

The same can now be said – and ac­tu­ally is be­ing said – about the Fatah-Ha­mas ac­cord that was signed in Cairo. As In­tel­li­gence Min­is­ter Is­rael Katz put it on Thurs­day, the agree­ment is “but a con­ve­nient cover for Ha­mas’s con­tin­ued ex­is­tence and ac­tiv­ity as a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion while re­lin­quish­ing civil­ian re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Gaza Strip, which de­te­ri­o­rated badly un­der its bru­tal rule.”

In other words, if Ha­mas were not reel­ing, it would not have reached this agree­ment with Fatah.

And Ha­mas is reel­ing. Gaza is fall­ing apart, Ha­mas’s pa­trons Qatar and Turkey do not have the same clout as they did a few years back, Egypt wants to clip its wings, and other Sunni Arab states – un­der­stand­ing that there can be no progress on the diplo­matic front if the Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal en­tity is bi­fur­cated – have pressed the Pales­tinian Author­ity to take eco­nomic steps to regain con­trol of the Gaza Strip.

Ten years af­ter Ha­mas mil­i­tar­ily de­feated Fatah and took con­trol of the Gaza Strip, the two fac­tions are not unit­ing be­cause of any new-found com­mon ground, but rather be­cause af­ter a dis­as­trous decade­long run, Ha­mas is try­ing to re­tain what­ever it can be­fore los­ing ev­ery­thing.

And the most im­por­tant thing it wants to re­tain is its arms. Which is why this par­tic­u­lar is­sue has been pushed off to an­other day, as PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas has said that re­lin­quish­ing them is nec­es­sary, and Ha­mas has coun­tered that this is out of the ques­tion.

Ha­mas, how­ever, can­not give up its arms, just as Hezbol­lah in Le­banon can­not give up its arms and place it­self un­der the author­ity of the Le­banese gov­ern­ment. For ei­ther or­ga­ni­za­tion to do so would mean a loss of its rai­son d’etre. In fact, what Ha­mas is aim­ing for is the Le­banese model: Let Fatah col­lect the garbage and be the face for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, while Ha­mas will ac­cu­mu­late mis­siles and bur­row ter­ror tun­nels.

Ten years ago Ha­mas had hoped to both ad­min­is­ter Gaza and to ac­quire the mis­siles and dig the tun­nels. To­day it re­al­izes that this is im­pos­si­ble, so it is giv­ing up the ad­min­is­ter­ing Gaza part of the equa­tion.

Jerusalem will now be faced with the ques­tion of how to act – to­ward both Ha­mas and the Pales­tinian Author­ity – if Ha­mas goes ahead and con­tin­ues to arm and both plan and carry out at­tacks against Is­rael. One thing is cer­tain: Is­rael can­not tol­er­ate a replica of Le­banon in Gaza. •

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