There is no doubt that Hamas has a major dilemma, but the solution does not involve escaping by playing the last card in its hand. If its participation in the 2006 election was a big mistake, then participating in the upcoming elections is an unforgivable sin.
We need to forget statements such as the one issued by Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem, who said, "Although Hamas had wanted simultaneous elections, it agreed to Abbas's schedule in the interests of unity." He noted that there are several issues that must be resolved between now and the start of elections.
Such statements are only for public consumption. They do not stem from Hamas leaders' consciences or convictions and do not fool anyone because no sane person believes them. What unity is Qasem referring to that will brought about by the elections? The last elections led to affliction and misery and were the main reason for the ongoing division of the Palestinian people.
Moreover, if there were pending issues between Hamas and Abbas, would it not have been more appropriate to resolve them before agreeing to hold the elections? How can the elections take place before achieving national consensus? Why didn't Qasem mention what these pending issues were and what Abbas's position is on the resistance and its weapons? Has the collaboration president changed his mind about them?
We all know Abbas's opinion about the resistance because he does not hide it. On the contrary, he always declares it whenever and wherever possible, and is never favourable. He mocks the missiles and considers resistance actions to be "terrorism". Furthermore, Abbas pursues the resistance fighters and informs on them to the Israeli security authorities so that they are arrested or killed; sometimes both. Isn't this his "sacred" mission for the occupation? Didn't he threaten to disarm Hamas, especially after the movement gave up the prime minister's role as one of its many concessions, without seeing any positive measures in return? Perhaps the most recent, and certainly not the last thing he said in this regard was his speech at the UN General Assembly last September when he vowed to fight terrorism, and we know that he meant the "terrorism" in Palestine. He knows that the US and the West in general, as well as the Israeli enemy, demonise legitimate resistance as "terrorism" and have Hamas on their lists of "global terrorist organisations". Shamelessly, he wants to woo Israel and the West.
The latest Hamas concession — its abandonment of the condition to hold the Palestine National Council (PNC), presidential and legislative elections simultaneously — puts it at great risk given the suffocating siege and crackdown on the resistance in Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians have not forgotten Israel's arrest and torture of their MPs and their staff in the West Bank after the 2006 elections. The Speaker of the Legislative Council himself was not spared such humiliation despite his respected position of immunity in all other countries of the world.
What assurances does Hamas have that the elections will be free and fair, and conducted with transparency and integrity at all stages, without interference from Abbas and Fatah, or from Israel and its supporters in the region, the normalisation countries? These countries control the treasuries in the area and are willing to empty them to prevent Hamas from winning.
There are no real guarantees, and the Palestinian Authority has not provided any measure of its good intentions. Quite the opposite, in fact. Abbas recently changed the election law, which raises a lot of doubt about the integrity of the elections. Haven't the Hamas leaders realised that the results of these elections have been decided already and that they are just a farce to keep the PA and Mahmoud Abbas in power?
What's more, he issued the decree calling for the elections, and can just as easily cancel them on any number of false pretexts. He can then establish a national and central council tailored to the current corrupt PA and its policies.
Israel and its supporters apart, there is no one, Palestinian or otherwise, who does not want the Palestinian division to end so that the people and their factions can unite against the occupation. The elections, though, are not the way to achieve this. The correct and more effective path is to agree on an inclusive national project with a new political programme to face the major challenges hindering the Palestinian cause, such as the highly complex changes in the international and Arab arenas.
Since the 1948 Nakba, the Palestinians have never experienced such a collapse at all levels as they are going through now. This collapse cannot be stopped and prevented by anyone other than younger leaders who have not yet been corrupted by politics or money. Hence, it is necessary to elect the PNC first. The PA may be content with legislative elections, under any pretext, and the arguments are many, and the features of the council that Abbas wants are clear. He wants it as it is, with an agreement to appoint certain figures of his own choosing to complete it. He wants it to be subordinate to him, not the other way round, as Hamas and the other resistance factions want.
I still hope that Hamas will back down from its election decision and will try with the other factions, as well as the honourable members still left within Fatah, to form a new Palestinian entity with a younger profile and greater patriotic spirit. We do not have to look far for this: the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad rejects the path followed by the PLO. It has taken a firm stance against the Oslo Accords that can be relied and built upon. It could communicate with the Palestinians in occupied Palestine to be a more comprehensive entity, and then elect a new Palestinian leadership committed to national liberation. We could then give it full legitimacy to make a bold decision regarding the Oslo Accords, and run the Palestinian national project in all its manifestations. This is what the Palestinian people need now, not Abbas's phoney election game.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.