When Hamas Takes Center Stage In The Realm Of World Opinion
Although the UN General Assembly vote condemning Hamas did not pass, all sides have chalked it up as a victory
The United Nations General Assembly voted on a resolution last week that if passed would have condemned Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip. Though the measure failed to muster the necessary support, Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas all claimed victory.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the “sweeping majority” and “principled stand” of those who voted in favor of the United States-drafted resolution.
On the other hand, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri tweeted that, “the failure of the American venture at the UN represents a slap to the U.S. administration and confirmation of the legitimacy of the resistance.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas likewise hailed the result, even though his Ramallah-based government has for over a decade repeatedly clashed with Hamas. The PA leader stressed that under no circumstances would he “allow for the condemnation of the Palestinian national struggle.”
Utilizing what some observers have decried as an underhanded tactic, members of the assembly approved a preliminary motion requiring a two-thirds majority for the American resolution to succeed. This effectively ensured its failure and was done even though past votes in the GA have required only a simple majority to pass.
The draft, put forth by outgoing U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, won 87 votes compared to 58 against and 32 abstentions in the 193-seat body.
“In the Middle East everyone declares victory regardless of the results,” Yossi Mekelberg, Professor of International Relations at Regent’s University in London, told The Media Line.
A majority denounced the group’s indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel; use of burning kites and balloons; and construction of tunnels for the purpose of attacking the Jewish state, he explained. Yet there were some countries like Guatemala and Japan that hedged their bets, so to speak, by supporting the first motion requiring the two-thirds threshold and then voting in favor of the resolution.
“I suspect that there are two minds on this issue,” Prof. Mekelberg related. “These countries wanted to condemn Hamas, but they didn’t want to make it too easy considering the dire conditions in Gaza. It says to Israel ‘yes, we support you against Hamas’ aggression, but the violence is also happening in a context.’ And this is the duality by which some countries try to send a message.
“Yet I am not so sure Hamas can record a victory here with 87 countries voting against them.”
Responding to the fact that most Arab countries voted against the measure, Prof. Mekelberg cautioned that one should not put “the whole Arab world in one basket” as Hamas is viewed differently in each nation.
“It is important to differentiate between what people think on the so-called ‘Arab street’ and what governments do. The former are generally sympathetic with the underdog Hamas and its fight against ‘occupation’ and the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.”
But when it comes to the latter things are murkier. States like Qatar, which is close to Hamas, represents the discord in the Arab world over support for such groups. “Many states cannot back Hamas too closely because that would mean they endorse similar movements in their own countries,” Prof. Mekelberg concluded.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, the former director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau at the Israeli Prime Minster’s Office, conveyed to The Media Line that “we are living in an era when all sides can declare victory and it is the truth.
“From Hamas’ point of view, they succeeded as the resolution did not pass. But from Israel’s perspective, for the first time a resolution like that had a chance of going through. Yet Israel still needs to ask itself why so many states which requested the two-thirds majority still support the Jewish state.”
“This sends Israel a message that ‘we can support you, but only if the resolution is meaningless.’ In this sense, I belong to those who are asking very pragmatic questions: What has really been changed because of the vote? The real issues are not taking place in the UN. If that body really wants to change things, they could take much more dramatic decisions than just vote against Hamas,” Nuriel added.
“What can really affect Hamas is what the pragmatic Sunni states are prepared to do. They have much more influence on the group than other organs or governments.”