Hamas’ Truce With Israel

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, August 11

Anyone who ever reads what I have to say about Hamas knows that I am far from being a supporter of the Gaza-based Islamic Resistance movement. Hamas has wreaked havoc upon the people of Palestine, both inside and outside of the Gaza Strip, and has undermined their collective struggle for liberation. Yet Hamas’ leadership surprised me in the past week in a very positive way. In its decision to enter a long-term Egyptian-backed ceasefire agreement with Israel, Hamas demonstrated that it is a strategic player capable of making nuanced political decisions for the betterment of the people of Gaza. In its acceptance of a truce, Hamas proved that it has far more political skill than its competitor in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority. While the details of the ceasefire with Israel are still unknown, it seems like the two sides agreed to enter a long-term truce, wherein both sides refrain from attacking each other. Hamas will halt all of its hostilities against Israel, including the digging of underground tunnels and the firing of mortars on Israeli towns and cities. Israel, meanwhile, will de facto recognize Hamas as a legitimate political entity, lift limitations on the cargo allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, and expand the territorial waters available to Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip by more than 10 kilometers. There are also talks about a potential release of several Hamas prisoners from Israeli jails. Whether this deal will succeed or not remains to be seen, yet it is meant to last for at least a few years. Surprisingly, it was the PA that dismissed the terms proposed by Israel during the negotiations. While Hamas leaders set off to Cairo to meet with their Egyptian counterparts, it was PA President Mahmoud Abbas, sitting in Ramallah, who rejected the Israeli and Egyptian attempts to restore stability to the Israel-Gaza border. Abbas miscalculated Hamas’ intentions. Thinking that the organization would never accept a truce, Abbas tried to adopt an even harsher anti-Israel stance than Hamas. But he soon found himself sidelined by both Israel and Egypt. Hamas, in turn, upgraded its status, both internally and externally, and became the go-to Palestinian representative. The movement’s leadership understood that instead of solving its issues domestically, with the Palestinian government in Ramallah, Hamas could work directly with the Israelis and gain much-needed international legitimacy. It is Israel, after all, which controls the Palestinian financial system, its energy infrastructure, and its border crossings. By working directly with the Egyptian and Israeli authorities, Hamas has managed to bypass and weaken Abbas. We are now witnessing Hamas becoming the PA, and the PA becoming Hamas. –Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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