After Mecca / Hamas is still Hamas

The more time that passes since the signing of the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the clearer it becomes that the real winner in the current round of internal Palestinian conflict is Hamas.

“And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every manís hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
óGenesis 16:12

From the declarations of senior Hamas leaders and its spokesmen and from informal conversations with central activists, it it clear the organization does not intend to make significant changes in its hard-line ideological stance. In the words of its Gaza spokesman, Ismail Radwan, “The organization has changed nothing in its stances toward the conqueror and Zionist enemy,” Radwan told Haaretz.

At most, according to Radwan, Hamas will accept the 1967 borders as a temporary solution, and that only on condition that “the Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and all prisoners will be released.” Then Hamas would consider the possibility of a hudna [cease-fire]. Radwan is not part of Hamas’ extremist wing. He is considered a representative of the mainstream, led from Damascus by the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal. Yesterday in Moscow, Meshal was cool to the praise he heard from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the PA unity government, and immediately reiterated that Hamas would not recognize Israel.

When Hamas activists summarize the events in Gaza over the past months, their conclusion is clear: Fatah lost the battle.

“Israel has not yet understood that after the Mecca agreement, the disappearence of Fatah is a matter of time,” a senior Hamas member said behind closed doors this week.

Another senior figure, considered a leader of the pragmatic stream, went even further. “Of all people,” he said, “from you Jews, who have known so many disasters, it should have been expected to be careful not to drown in a sea of Muslims. You might have another Holocaust.”

The Shin Bet security service and Military Intelligence agree that Fatah suffered the more painful blows in the latest round of violence in the Gaza Strip. Other than the Preventive Security forces, Fatah did not take too active a part in the fighting and kept channels of communication with Hamas open even in the midst of the battles.

Hamas has not been disarmed, despite declarations by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas even plans on increasing its forces from 6,000 to 12,000.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, on a visit to the Gaza border yesterday, heard from intelligence officers about a “smuggling highway” from Egypt to Rafah and of Hamas plans to send hundreds of activists for training in terror camps in Lebanon and Iran. Iran has pledged millions of dollars in aid, which, if it arrives, will empty the international economic siege of the PA of any significance.

Although sentiment in the Gaza Strip is that the unity government will be formed in a matter of days, disputes remain, such as the naming of the interior minister, who will control the size of Hamas’ operational forces.

Fatah is learning its lessons from the fighting and focusing on training and improving its equipment. While the two sides are negotiating their disputes, they are also busy preparing for the possibility of renewed fighting.

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