|Gaza is not Algeria|
|Written by Ahmed Yousef|
|Thursday, 12 July 2007 15:07|
The leadership of Mahomoud Abbas has poorly calculated its political strategy, choosing to align itself with the Israeli regime and its Washington patrons in a bid to retain its hold on power. Yet it has compromised its legitimacy in the eyes of a large swath of the Palestinian public, and it has fallen into Israel's Machiavellian trap of sowing discord among Palestinians to avoid dealing with the real issue: ending the occupation, fairly and justly.
Voters in the occupied territories are under no illusions about who planted the seeds of the current strife, particularly as Hamas made offers - but was repeatedly rebuffed - to form a unity government as soon as it won the elections in 2006. Despite increasing intransigence by hard-line Fatah activists, Hamas even adhered to a unilateral cease-fire for 18 months in a bid to neutralize tensions.
For over a year, the Islamic movement's leadership has tried to avoid conflict with Fatah, yet confrontation was inevitable because American neoconservatives, the Israelis and even some Arab officials are determined to undermine a Palestinian government with an Islamic hue.
The economic blockade was the first blow. Then American neoconservative officials, led by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, machinated against the Hamas government. Finally, Fatah tried, illegally, to call for premature elections in January; when this failed, it initiated plans to strengthen its hold on security forces in preparation for a coup, receiving arms and training from both Israel and foreign governments.
The combined economic blockade and militarization of Fatah forced Hamas to undertake preemptive measures aimed at preserving the integrity of Palestine's fledgling democracy.
Abbas' current moves to unilaterally declare an emergency government in the West Bank is a political gamble doomed to fail. First, Parliament will not approve deposing Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Therefore the only options Abbas has are to amend the constitution without a parliamentary vote, or to stage a military coup bolstered by Israeli arms and secret-service support in a move reminiscent of Algeria's FLN negating moderate Islamist victories at the ballot box in 1991.
The rational choice would be to engage with Hamas - as it has been trying to do since coming to power - within the framework of the law, and jointly to work toward ending economic terrorism and irredentist occupation. Western powers would do more for the cause of stability by releasing their chokehold on the Palestinian economy and finding more plausible representation than Tony Blair to act as an envoy in the interests of peace.
Hamas itself has proven its ability to enforce and preserve peace when left unhindered to do so, by securing the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. The entire apparatus of the legitimate Palestinian government focused its energies on Mr. Johnston's release for humanitarian and practical reasons. Journalists like Alan are brave, honorable people who have risked much to alleviate our suffering or report the truth.
Hamas was limited in its ability to exercise security controls until recently; however, now that the security apparatus is genuinely geared toward the safety and well-being of the general population, Hamas will pursue all avenues to ensure that thugs and hoodlums, regardless of purported ideology, are neutralized.
Our efforts must remain focused on rectifying the misguided actions of our colleagues in the unity government and refocusing our political energies exclusively on ending the occupation. We have learned from the experiences of Turkey, and will conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects the national interest without compromising our principles.
The alternative is open, internecine conflict - something abhorrent to Hamas, yet a necessary evil if the peaceful alternative is not pursued. Civil war is tragic, permanently affecting a nation's psyche if not its geography. Yet when there are forces that reflect the majority's will, their victory can lead to national reconciliation and prosperity, as demonstrated in the decades following the French Revolution and US Civil War. Hamas would, by any measure, be justified in defending itself given the assassinations of Hamas officials and supporters, attempts on the life of the elected prime minister, and kidnappings and bombings by some members of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' paramilitary groups. And defend itself it shall.
[Source: Haaretz.com. Ahmed Yousef is the political adviser to deposed Palestinian premier Ismail Haniyeh.]