No. 587 January-February 2012
Will Palestinian Reconcilliation Lead to a Hamas Takeover of the PLO?
Jonathan D. Halevi
- PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal reached an agreement in Cairo on 22 December on national reconciliation and a strategic partnership. A new temporary leadership was formed for the PLO, for the first time in tandem with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hamas' joining of the PLO does not herald a strategic shift in the movement's policy or recognition of the agreements the PLO has signed with Israel. The Hamas leadership keeps emphasizing that it seeks to take over the PLO after new elections to the Palestinian National Council and to alter the PLO platform in accordance with its own views.
- Osama Hamdan, in charge of foreign relations for Hamas, asserted in an interview: "Whoever thinks Hamas has changed its positions and that it accepts the PLO's political platform of surrender is dreaming or fooling himself." Hamdan went on to state that "Hamas is seeking a national framework to reconstruct the PLO [and] reconsider its political platform...from the standpoint of our basic principles and rights, which do not accept bargaining, particularly [over] the liberation of our land from the river to the sea and the right of return."
- Hamas has reached an agreement with Abbas on adopting the "popular resistance" paradigm for the struggle against Israel. Various political elements view this position of Hamas as a sign of pragmatism, heralding a process of accepting Israel's existence including willingness to negotiate with it on a political settlement. Yet the openly stated positions of the Hamas leadership do not support this assessment.
- An official Hamas announcement on 27 December stated: "We underline our adherence to our right to the struggle in all its forms, particularly the armed struggle, for the removal of the occupation. The way of resistance [muqawama in the original, with a double entendre of resistance and struggle], jihad, and martyrdom for Allah [istishhad] has proved that it is the only way to forcefully attain our rights and the liberation of our land, Al-Quds [Jerusalem], and our holy places.
- Hamas' growing confidence stems first and foremost from the consequences of the Arab Spring, or more precisely the Islamic Spring, which has empowered the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other countries. For years under Mubarak's regime, Egypt gave backing to the PA. Now, in the wake of the revolution, Egypt stands to become a huge source of strength for Hamas, especially once the Muslim Brotherhood forms the next government there.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.