Hamas will never learn from its mistakes.
In discussing the recent document issued by Hamas, one cannot help thinking of the approaching anniversary of the Arab defeat in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
It was, first and foremost, a defeat for the Arab genius. By creating an “Islamic Emirate” in Gaza and by waging wars against Israel, Hamas seems to have acquired enough experience in running state affairs in extremely difficult conditions. Why doesn’t it transfer its expertise to the West Bank by resorting to legitimate means and an internationally sanctioned programme?
Hamas’s programme included abandoning the idea of destroying the state of Israel and accepting the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Hamas also had a comforting gesture towards Egypt and announced that it was breaking relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. Everybody knows that this is not true or possible because inside each Hamas member is a small Muslim Brother expert at disguising himself behind an expensive business suit and a pseudo-elegant tie, pretending to be in favour of an open, civil state.
Egypt did not swallow the bait and has given its relations with Hamas a precise frame, that of cooperating in intelligence work. For Egypt, then, relations with Hamas are limited to security issues.
Hamas is trying to project a new image and has used influential European connections to bring its programme to the attention of the Trump administration but what Hamas desires most ardently is power. There is no surprise there because the Muslim Brotherhood and its offspring organisations crave power.
To be convinced of Hamas’s hunger for power, look at its practices in Gaza. Hamas took control of Gaza by force in June 2007 in a blatant breach of all its accords with Fatah, including the Makkah Accords. In ten years, Hamas accomplished one thing only: Hogging power.
Hamas’s goal in Gaza was not to put an end to Israeli occupation. The real goal was to change the character of Palestinian society.
By imposing an embargo on Gaza, Israel did Hamas a great favour. It gave the organisation the excuse and the means to maintain its grip on the life of every Palestinian in the district.
Hamas returned the favour by launching pitiful and ridiculous rockets across the border and giving Ariel Sharon and his successors, including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the precious chance to claim that there is no Palestinian to negotiate with.
I guess that, following ten years of valuable services to Israel, it is time for Hamas to present its credentials to Netanyahu in the West Bank. Israel would welcome the move since it has always insisted on requiring the opposite side to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Still, it is intriguing that Hamas brought up the subject of negotiations with Israel. Perhaps Hamas wants a long ceasefire with Israel, which is exactly what Israel wants so it can focus on building more colonies in the West Bank and on besieging East Jerusalem.
Hamas could have easily declared that it wants to control the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the West Bank. To say that the movement’s new document is a step forward for Palestinians and the region is hogwash.
Let’s not forget that Yasser Arafat had to fight long and hard to gain acceptance for the Palestinian National Charter on the basis of which the Oslo Accords were negotiated and that had opened for him the gates of the White House.
Arafat navigated a long and arduous journey of negotiations with the United States, then with Israel. The goal of Arafat and the Palestinian leadership, however, was not to exercise power under conditions of occupation. It was to establish an independent Palestinian state.
Let Hamas say frankly to the Palestinians that it wants to control the West Bank. Israel would not object as it would much like the type of social order that Hamas is diligent to create in Gaza to replace the image of an open-minded Palestinian society.
Half a century down the road from the 1967 defeat, the Arab genius is facing another defeat. Some people insist on repeating mistakes. In 2000, Bill Clinton proposed a solution that could have worked. Hamas chose then to militarise the Palestinian intifada and is choosing now to walk down the same losing path. Some people will never learn.