The Lebanese and Palestinian experiences show the difficulty, if not impossibility, of combining the “authority” and the “resistance”. Each one of these “institutions”, so to speak, has its own different logic and tools. They each have their own incompatible, not to say “contradictory”, considerations and calculations, and the “best of both worlds” will find itself forced to abandon one in favour of the other. The experiences of history, both past and recent, indicate that authority is usually chosen at the expense of resistance.
Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip serve as live testimonies to the inability to combine the two things. Every step taken by either towards taking control of the reins of authority and active involvement in parliamentary and governmental action required them to take two steps back from the trenches and weapons. This is a fact that the many justifications and claims do not diminish, including claims of “always having a finger on the trigger”, constant readiness and a state of alert, and the accumulation of elements of power and competence.
In Lebanon, the party achieved its main successes in fighting the occupation and liberating the south (unconditionally) when it was out of power, away from authority and free of its restrictions. The party reached its peak in 2006, during the July war, when it persevered for 31 days and dealt harsh blows to the Israelis, despite the losses sustained by Lebanon, specifically to its civil and urban structure. At the time, the party was taking its first steps towards integration into the local political life and it had not penetrated its corridors and thorny files.
The party has a “theory” to justify its involvement in the world of Lebanese domestic politics. The most important is the fact that it wants to protect the resistance’s back after confirming that some of its “partners in the country” expressed their willingness to stab it in the back. It sought to employ foreign attacks and hostility to achieve internal gains at its expense. It has much proof and data to indicate this.
The rest of the story after this is known, include the party’s move to fight alongside its allies in arenas far from the main battlefield: Palestine. This “move” lost the party a lot of its popularity on the local and Arab arenas and has become a topic of controversy that hasn’t died down and won’t do so soon. This is despite the fact that the party and its supporters are seeking to justify involvement in the regional conflicts, based on the theory that terrorism and Israel are two sides of the same coin. This theory raises more questions than it answers.
Hamas has also fallen into the same taboo, perhaps even at a time coinciding with the shifts in Hezbollah’s direction and focus on the interior. Hamas participated in the 2006 elections after outlawing participation in the 1996 elections. It relied on the same justification as Hezbollah: protecting the resistance’s back. It went into the “coup/decisiveness” with the same justification used by Hezbollah when it imposed its control on Beirut in 2007, at a similar time. It justified its actions by saying it was protecting the resistance and its weapons, making the movement in Gaza, and the party in Lebanon, to a lesser extent, basically responsible for domestic policy and involved in its heavy calculations and requirements.
Since 2006, there has been almost no serious resistance in Lebanon in over a decade of calm. During the same period, Gaza was subject to repeated Israeli aggression and brutality which always ending with truces and ceasefire agreements. These were violated by Israel whenever it desired, time after time, repeating the entire situation.
However, after Israel’s planes and rockets violated Gaza and its people, not to mention the on-going destructive blockade, the Strip is still occupied, albeit by a special form of occupation.
Today, Hamas’ situation seems even more difficult than its Lebanese counterpart, Hezbollah. At the top of its agenda are the issues of salaries, crossings, services, water, electricity, oil and jobs and it is unable to secure any of them. It is forced to remain calm and guard the truce, including stopping the balloons and kites (it has even done this) under the pressure of authority and what it needs to do to remain in power.
Hamas finds itself forced to adapt politically to the demands of the PA, as it is politically affiliated with the PLO after pledging to “revolutionise” the organisation. It is forced to make concessions accordingly, at times in the context of reconciliation and its Egyptian paths, at others, in the context of resolving the humanitarian issue and the efforts of Nickolay Mladenov, and at other times, to “dance” on the edge of initiatives that are paving the way for the “deal of the century” or derived from it and for it. The price of Hamas’ remainder in power, if the situation continues in this way, will be no less than the resistance’s head.
As for Hezbollah, it has had a margin of movement and freedom to manoeuvre that is far wider than what Hamas has. The future of its “resistance” depends on the results of the conflict between Tehran and Damascus. If the two sides go through diplomacy, the party will be subject to pressure to adapt to the Lebanese equation, in its capacity as a political party, not an armed resistance. If the developments go towards “explosion” the future of the party and its weapons will be determined by the results of the” major battle “between the two countries and their allies. In any case, the question regarding the relationship between authority and resistance will continue to be posed for both Hamas and Hezbollah.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 2 August 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.