'Bear Hug' For Hamas
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'Bear Hug' For Hamas

Hamas's goal is to convert itself into a political party with the aim of ousting Fatah from its leadership position over the Palestinian national struggle. Achieving this goal would mean taking over the national institutions.

Gidi Grinstein, YNET, 06/09/05

Hamas’s strategy includes trying to influence the political process without taking responsibility for the results. In doing so, it also sabotages the political process that Fatah and moderate sources within the Palestine Liberation Organization are leading.

Not only does Hamas avoid paying the political price, but it also makes itself look as though it is concerned about the dire needs of the Palestinian population. This strategy allows it to enjoy the best of both worlds – to affect the structure, content and results of the political process and, at the same time, saddle Fatah with all the responsibility and political failures.

A key condition for this strategy is that Fatah and the moderate sources continue to lead talks with Israel on the national and municipal level. As long as this structure is maintained, Hamas will continue to grow stronger at their expense.

Israel cannot prevent Hamas’s integration in Palestinian institutions, but it can hinder and even prevent a takeover by the group of the entire PLO by eroding the basic logic that guides its actions.

One way is to give Hamas a bear hug and recognize its elected representatives. Israel’s current policy of refusing to speak to Hamas unless it disarms just plays into the group’s hands. Shifting political responsibility to Hamas could expose the group’s deceit and cause it to become moderate or maybe split the faction.

On the municipal level, Israel must insist that Hamas mayors work directly with civil administration officials. Hamas representatives now stand before the cruel test of having to implement the promises they gave their voters. In this situation, the right hand, which controls terror in the city, could harm the left hand, responsible for the welfare of the citizens.

On the national level, Israel could initiate a move that would transfer formal responsibility for the political process regarding PLO citizens in the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.
Many would say that the PLO and the PA are one the same.

Officially, the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and responsible for the political process. But in reality, such power has been passed to the PA, which represents the Palestinian citizens of the West Bank an Gaza and has no formal status regarding Israel, according to interim peace agreements.

Hamas’s strategy is based on this distinction. Its position in the PA allows it to thwart any political process that Fatah initiates and approves in PLO institutions. A continuation of the current structure of relations between Hamas, the PA and Israel will lead to a dead end and more violence.

On the other hand, a combination of a Hamas bear hug and replacing the PA with the PLO as Israel’s formal partner in the political process would give Israel the chance to reconfigure the political agenda for the day.

None of this contradicts the war on terror, which targets its operators and initiators.

During a transition to a position of power, ideology conflicts with everyday and future needs. Hamas is about to experience such a process. Israel has the ability to delay or accelerate it.