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Hamas' opportunity

A demonstration in support of Hamas in Gaza
A demonstration in support of Hamas in Gaza, 15 April 2016

When Khaled Meshaal – head of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) – finally acknowledged that its monopolisation of governance in the Gaza Strip was wrong, he failed to specify what, in particular, as been the main flaw in the movement's behaviour since the 2006 elections. Meshaal should have admitted that Hamas' primary mistake was its political behaviours, which led to "divisions in governance" and made real resistance impossible.

A national movement cannot resist an occupation at the same time as it seeks to function as a government, particularly given how much of the political landscape is controlled by the occupation. Even beyond this direct problem, the international and regional environment has been severe hostile towards Islamists in general and would not have allowed for Hamas' experience to succeed.

In reality what has happened is that the occupation has taken advantage of Hamas' position in government to justify a extracting a high price from the Palestinians.

Yet, since its time in office began Hamas realised the urgent need rid itself of the consequences of its monopoly of governance in Gaza and thus it took some serious steps to reach agreements with the PA, Fatah, and other factions. It also made an effort to legitimise its repositioning in the Palestinian political system.

However, the efforts to end the division in Palestinian politics were not likely to succeed because for Israel had a strong reason to keep disagreement live. In fact, it allows Israel to reinforce the detachment of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and at the same time it represents a chance extent Tel Aviv's room for manoeuvre. Moreover, the PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, has shown no willingness to regain the responsibility for managing the security situation in the Gaza Strip, for the PA. This is probably out of fear that the right-wing Israeli government would use it to blackmail him more than it already does at the moment.

The only opportunity Hamas has to get rid of the consequences of combining governance and resistance and thereby reduce the ability of others to prey on the movement and besiege it, not to mention the corresponding harm to the Palestinian cause and Palestinian people, is for it to be willing to reposition itself in the post-Mahmoud Abbas era. Regional forces are already trying to draw the outlines and feature of this phase in advance in a manner that guarantees the besiegement and isolation of Hamas.

There is a plan being hatched among the various interfering arab regimes. This is to impose a candidate who will succeed Abbas and ensure a ceasefire with Israel and continue to stifle the Palestinian resistance. Yet the internal Palestinian situation should not allow for the success of such a plan.

One method that can thwart these plans is to stop the Oslo Accords, and roll back its results, including the disappointment of the PA's performance and its leaders. We must also stop the revolutionary mood that is reflected by the individual resistance operations, heal the deep conflicts within Fatah, and address the polarisation within the movement and find a leadership figure who can accepted by the public.

There is also the issue of the crazy extremism that characterises the right-wing government in Tel Aviv's policies. It shows no flexibility and cannot therefore; effectively help the regional forces achieve their goals. Moreover, things are further complicated for the regional forces by the fact that there is a need for a surplus of appropriate candidates to occupy the leadership positions that will be vacated after Abbas, i.e. the leadership position in the PLO Executive Committee, the PA, and Fatah.

Therefore, organising the post-Abbas Palestinian internal affairs inescapably requires consensus with Hamas, which has the support of a large part of the Palestinian public in the West bank and the Gaza Strip, not to mention its political and military weight. Anyone who takes over the leadership positions currently occupied by Abbas will have to deal with the reality of Hamas' popularity and this will provide the circumstances to end the division. It will allow the movement to reposition itself in the Palestinian scene in a manner that allows it to eliminate the consequences of combining resistance and governance. It will also allow for reducing Israel and the regional forces' ability to harm the movement and continue to isolate it.

However, all of this requires Hamas to take initiative in order to improve its ability to manoeuvre when the post-Abbas phase begins. This can be achieved by Hamas committing to the conditions that will ensure its smooth reintegration into the Palestinian political system. The main conditions are a willingness to agree with the other factions in the Palestinian arena over a national work programme based on a number of common denominators, including the flexibility and willingness to make concessions that may affect the movement's gains. However, in exchange, these concessions will reinforce the national position and protect it, as well as restore the cause's centrality.

The post-Abbas phase will not only depend on Hamas' behaviour, as figures succeeding Abbas may not be willing to reach a consensus. This may lead to a state of chaos, albeit temporarily, especially in the West Bank. Therefore, at that point, Hamas must not hesitate in "generalising" the Palestinian situation, i.e. if the PA organisations in the West Bank stop work and vitality as a result of the state of chaos, and then the same situation needs to be provided in Gaza. Therefore, Hamas will have to give up the aspect of responsibility in the Gaza Strip. It is certain that any national action to address the chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be based on a consensus, the conditions and circumstances of which are not subject to the restrictions of an internal division

All of the above requires Hamas leaders to give up the methodology and school of thought that it currently employs, which, at some points, contributed to turning opportunities into dangers or risks.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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