By Ze'ev Schiff Haaretz 28 November 2006
Hamas's strategy worked. In return for symbolic concessions to Palestinian
Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - and due mostly to its employment of force
against Israel and the Israel Defense Forces' failure to put an end to the
launching of Qassam rockets - Hamas is reaping a major achievement. And
anyone who is wondering whether the cease-fire will enable Hamas to become
stronger should remember that following the group's electoral victory,
Israel decided that it would not allow Hamas to consolidate its power unless
it met a number of conditions. These conditions have not been met.
The positive aspect of the cease-fire, for both sides, is the fact that
Abbas, who seeks to resume diplomatic negotiations, succeeded in arranging
it. However, Abbas is also trying to remove the economic boycott of the Gaza
Strip and gain international recognition for a Palestinian government in
which Hamas will be a leading partner. This can be viewed as a victory for
Abbas, but it is clearly also a victory for Hamas.
Hamas's concessions will be symbolic: replacing the prime minister, and
appointing a foreign minister affiliated with the organization, but who has
a moderate worldview. Hamas showed no flexibility over the conditions
presented to it by the international community (recognizing Israel,
relinquishing violence and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian
agreements). Abbas will conduct the negotiations with Israel, and Hamas will
run the PA. Its control will be looser, assuming that it gives up control of
the Interior Ministry and the security services. Nonetheless, if various
countries now rush to recognize Hamas, its victory will be complete - and
Israel's failure will be great.
What is particularly worrying is that Hamas succeeded in securing calm in
order to better entrench itself. This success was achieved through violence
that Israel did not manage to prevent - the abduction of Corporal Gilad
Shalit and the intensification of Qassam rocket attacks against Sderot.
Israel did not stop the rocket launches, and the public pressure on Ehud
Olmert's government grew.
Calm is good for both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, but it reduces the
pressure on Hamas, which was in a difficult situation, at a critical
juncture. The fact that Khaled Meshal, who heads Hamas's political bureau,
agreed to the deal, and that Tehran and Damascus have been silent about it,
suggests that they view it as a Hamas success.
Abbas appreciates the dangers, and has brought forces into northern Gaza to
prevent the launching of rockets. The sporadic rocket fire that still
continues is being carried out by small Palestinian factions with rockets
that they received in the past from Hamas weapons manufactories and the
Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. If Abbas manages to end the rocket
attacks, this will be an achievement for him. A more difficult task is
putting an end to the arms smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border, and that
depends on Egypt. But on this issue, Hamas can also be calm: It has amassed
sufficient quantities of weapons and ammunition that it can allow itself a
break from the smuggling
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