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Hamas — a paradigm shift?

Sep 18,2017 - Last updated at Sep 18,2017

After its failure to exploit any loophole to circumvent the siege on Gaza, Hamas finally announced on Sunday that it was prepared to end its rule in the strip, hold general elections and start reconciliation talks with Fateh.

After years of futile attempts to impose the winners-take-all politics, Hamas eventually and officially adopted a paradigm shift.

While few observers have understanding of the opaque politics of the internal working of Hamas, it seems that the recent change in the balance of power within the organisation has helped moderates find common ground with Fateh.

To be sure, Hamas and Fateh have overlapping, though not identical, interests at stake in the long-overdue reconciliation.

For the majority of Palestinians, the surreal intra-Palestinian conflict has been disheartening.

When it comes to Hamas’ new thinking, more telling is the fact that Hamas called on Palestinian government ministers in Ramallah to come to Gaza and assume their ministerial roles.

Looking at the new development from a different perspective, Hamas’ new move is anchored in its desire for political survival. Hence, it remains to be seen whether Hamas’ new approach reflects a change of heart or simply a new ploy.

For this reason, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is cautious in his welcome of the new development.

It is not as if Hamas has finally surrendered. Implicit in Hamas’ readiness to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority and to coordinate with Egypt is a deep-seated concern about the grave consequences of the ongoing siege.

Senior leaders of Hamas use talks with Egypt — the mediator — to ease the siege, open the Rafah crossing with Egypt and get help to solve the electricity crisis in Gaza. As a quid pro quo, Egypt needs Hamas’ help to secure the borders between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, given Egypt’s relentless war against Daesh in northern Sinai.

The mending of the decade-long rift between the two key Palestinian factions came as a result of the leadership change in Hamas.

The shift from the exiled leadership in Qatar to Gaza helps explain the new development. The structure of the new leadership and the ascendance of the military wing of Hamas are behind the new pragmatic approach. 

Unlike the previous leadership, which lives in five-star hotels in Doha and is divorced from reality, the new leadership feels how Gazans live in abject poverty and face various kinds of hardships.

Hamas cannot survive while the Gazans are approaching a tipping point on their way to starvation.

Interestingly, Yahiya Sinwar — a military leader who became number two in Hamas — reached out even to Mohammad Dahlan, asking for help.

The readiness of people such as Sinwar to reconcile with Dahlan demonstrates how severe Hamas’ situation is.

The new move is positive if all parties act in good faith.

In particular, Abbas needs to work fast not to be cornered by
Hamas. After Hamas meets all his conditions, Abbas will look bad if he fails to lift sanction on Gazans.



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