The truth is, I was surprised by Hamas this time, the organization and the governance, the language and the style and above all, the political skill. Perhaps this is the only occasion where I praise Hamas, and I, like many, am always critical of the extremist organization due to the chaos and crises it has caused, the opportunities it ruined and implicating its people in the process, inside the Gaza Strip and outside it.
What surprised us about Hamas regarding the truce deal with Israel is that it showed it has more political skill than others. It will gain a lot for a small price. If the deal succeeds, it will have survived a suffocation process aiming to eliminate it, and will prove that it is wittier than its rival, the Palestinian Authority, and wittier than the old Fatah Movement which has monopolized Palestinian strategic decision-making since the 1970s.
The Palestinian Authority became Hamas and Hamas became the Authority. In Ramallah, Abu Mazen’s consultants were saying Hamas and Israel will not meet and when they met they said it’s impossible that they will reach an agreement. But here they are agreeing, and Ramallah is still taking a napAbdulrahman al-Rashed
We are waiting for the details of the “five-year deal”, a peace and reconciliation truce between the two sides. Truth is it is a “malicious” invention as it is peace and not permanent peace, an admission but not a complete admission. Based on this deal, Hamas will attain a rare Israel acknowledgment that it is a Palestinian legitimacy and not just an affiliate to Ramallah’s government.
Israel would also pledge not to attack Hamas or the Strip and in exchange, Hamas will stop launching attacks underground or from the sky via tunnel networks, or by cutting barbed wires, or launching missiles and flying incendiary balloons.
Hamas will also finally have the keys of two border crossings, Karam Abu Salem and Rafah. Its naval territory in the Mediterranean will also be increased by 12 kilometers and it will be allowed to move individuals and merchandise through it.
Israel will also release a number of the movement’s members who are detained in Israeli prisons. Hamas deceived the Ramallah authority as it let it bet on failure thus not sabotaging the negotiations. President Mahmoud Abbas was confident that the deal between Hamas and Israel is impossible so he chose to escalate and be strict in his stances.
The Palestinian Authority became Hamas and Hamas became the Authority. In Ramallah, Abu Mazen’s consultants were saying Hamas and Israel will not meet and when they met they said it’s impossible that they will reach an agreement. But here they are agreeing, and Ramallah is still taking a nap.
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Until a few months ago, Hamas was pleading with Ramallah’s government to pay for electricity, telecommunications and employee wages but it has been refusing to do so until it’s handed over full governance of the Gaza Strip in exchange. Hamas has decided that instead of taking the money of the bills from Ramallah’s Authority, which takes them from Israel, to go straight to the source, to the enemy that being friends with is a must. It got more than the payment for electricity and telecommunications for almost nothing in return, five years of winter hibernation.
Critics of the deal
Hamas already lives through this situation due to the faltering of the Assad regime and the siege on the Khamenei regime. The only friends it has in this gloomy world are Mohammed Dahlan and the Egyptian government. It is through these two that it managed to get more than we had expected. The expectations were that Hamas will be obliged to be under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority which in turn will give up its demands to Hamas and Israel as a price.
Some will shame Hamas for accepting to sign the five-year deal and Hamas will defy them by asking them to propose an alternative to the agreement amid the dangerous transformations in the region’s political map.
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They will also view this deal as an attempt to drive a wedge between the two Palestinian parties, however, they cannot deny that the relationship between the two parties is already fractured and what the Authority and Hamas did to each other does not need attempts to drive a wedge to achieve this purpose. Those who will condemn Hamas for accepting that Egypt sponsors the deal are not aware that it is impossible to achieve any agreement without Egypt, and therefore this is the agreement of necessity.
Why is the deal valid for five years? We do not know yet how guarantees were calculated and whether the duration expresses a test of intentions and the move towards another more important phase later. Israel does not trust Hamas, which always blames armed groups in Gaza and that are not under its authority for launching missiles.
And Hamas does not trust Israel’s promises because, for instance, it arrested those it released during the famous Shalit deal. Five years is a new opportunity for both parties that may pave way for important future Palestinian changes.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.