Thursday, June 14, 2007

What next for Gaza

It is clear that Hamas fighters control Gaza and the remaining pockets of resistance will be surrendered within a fews days if not hours, Abdulbari Atwan writes. Fatah leaders have fled to safety in Cairo, and there isn't any motivation for their people to continue defending positions that are now without significance. The urgent question now is what will Hamas do once it has full control and has purged all of its enemies, and what will the million and a half Gazans do?

How will Hamas go about providing food, water, electricity, control of the border-crossings, dealing with the international community, provision of security, basic civil administration, fuel distribution, and all the events of daily life that are suddenly their responsibility following another collapse of general and preventive security?

First will come the withdrawal of Fatah ministers from the national-unity government, and perhaps also some of the independent ministers [including finance, foreign, and information portfolios], and this means the collapse of the government, although not of the PA itself, and it will also mean the almost complete severing of the relationship between Gaza and the West Bank. Secondly, there could well be a transfer of the fight between the two big factions (Hamas and Fatah) from Gaza to the West Bank, and there are already indications of this, because we have already witnessed Fatah people in control of Nablus and other West Bank cities, as if to say "You have Gaza, but we have control of the West Bank".

Third, it is possible Egypt will seal off its border with the Gaza Strip, and all assistance and help from the outside world will come to a halt, because Egypt doesn't want another experience (referring to 1967) of refugee camps on its border or within its territory...

Fourthly there is the question of how the victorious Hamas will deal with the other factions including Islamic Jihad, the popular resistance councils, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Brigades of Abu al-Rish, and the Islamic Army. Will Hamas deal with them, and if so to what extent and on what basis?

Fifth: Will Gaza become a Palestinian Hanoi or a Palestinian south-Lebanon, turning into a launching point for fierce resistance to Israel, and what will be the response, will there be a another occupation, or will the prior experience be repeated of rocket shelling on the prretext of wiping out Hamas? What is happening in Gaza is the height of madness and mistaken calculations, as if someone had carefully set a trap for Hamas, this national organization that bears the responsibility for the resistance, and has offered up hundreds of martyrs in recent years. ...

Certainly the army of agents recruited in recent years by the Israeli authorities will be enjoying its best days, with...pillaging and looting of houses and killing of women and children and old people, these despicable people whose aim is to trigger fitna and add fire to the oil, first of all making Paletinians hate the resistance and its factions, and then making Arabs generally hate the Palestinians, as a people lacking in responsibility, not deserving of a state, or even of life.

If the borders were opened to them, the Palestinian people, living this combination of terror and loathing would flee to Egypt, and even to the Jewish state, in search of security, now that the lives of their children are threatened by people who are their own flesh and blood, who embrace their religion and are called by their names, and whom in fact in the past they had elected to positions of authority.

Then, having assigned to the Palestinian leadership their full share of blame in this, Atwan continues and concludes as follows:
The days to come will be days of terror for everyone. The world that isolated Palestine, starved it, and refused to rrecognize its elected government, bears its share of the responsibility for what has happened, because it was incumbent on it to give Hamas a chance to govern, and it didn't do so. Even after Hamas compromised and gave up the important cabinet positions to Fatah, the blockade continued, on the orders of Israel and under pressure from the United States.

Gaza will gradually turn into a small failed state, and in failed states, large or small, extremism always develops and gathers strength. There is one hope for an exit from this terrifying situation, and it is if Hamas were to behave like Hizbullah, managing Gaza in an organized and rational way, providing a system based on discipline and fairness. The reason we are skeptical about this possibility isn't because it isn't possible, but because it will not be permitted to do so.

The security collapse in Gaza, threatening to spread to the West Bank if it hasn't already, raises some of the same old themes from the pre-1967 period: namely a confederation with Jordan [for the West Bank] and abandonment of Gaza to its chaos, because no one wants it, not even the Egyptians or the residents of Gaza themselves, having lived this state of terror under one roof with their brothers who are their enemies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your fourth paragraph begins "Third, it is possible Egypt will seal off its border with the West Bank . . ".

I presume you meant " . . seal off its border with the Gaza Strip . . "

6:11 AM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you, I'm going to correct that.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How will Hamas go about providing food, water, electricity, control of the border-crossings, dealing with the international community, provision of security, basic civil administration, fuel distribution, and all the events of daily life that are suddenly their responsibility"

From what I hear from my Palestinian friends I didn't think that Fatah was providing those services in the first place? Wasn't that why they lost the elections ....for selling out Palestine and the Palestinians in return for nothing?

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is an answer to the fourth question in a quite interesting way:
"Gaza - Ma'an –A spokesperson for the Palestinian ministry of interior, Khalid Abu Hilal, said on Thursday night that "Hamas will not harm the good people of Fatah; the punishment will be directed against the collaborators."

In a press conference held in Gaza, Abu Hilal stated that he is now the head of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip. He described Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, and many other Fatah leaders as "collaborators".

He declared "the good and honorable people of the Fatah movement have rejected the collaborator trend in Fatah."

He confirmed that he has reached an agreement with leaders of the Hamas-affiliated Al Qassam Brigades, that the "good" people of Fatah will not be harmed. He stated that an emergency committee has been formed "in order to protect the good Fatah people… this committee will be temporary, in order to rearrange the affairs of the Fatah movement"."

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Atwan's is an extremely excellent analysis, that is if like me one believes Fatah has been long been impossibly corrupted and the PA government useless at meeting the basic needs of the people despite the billions in aid they have received since Oslo.

As Atwan says the key to it is if Hamas governs like Hizbollah, the keys being organisation, discipline and governing in a fair,rational way. To achieve this, imo, Hamas will have to achieve a monopoly of force as Hizbollah did in south Lebanon.

They have now expelled Fatah (armed by the US and Israel), which removes one source of mayhem but what are they going to do with the clans, the jihadis and the nascent AlQ groups? We will know if they have authority if they enable the speedy release of the BBC's Alan Johnston.

Regarding the continued financial boycott: this is surely irrelevant? Hamas has more than enough funding at its disposal from other sources to adequate govern Gaza and once security is restored the UN will be back. As the west can't afford a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, the funding will continue to be channelled through NGOS etc?

The biggest danger is that Israel will see it overwhelmingly in its interests to massively reinvade and occupy as in pre 1994, this time without settlers.

If Hamas is able to achieve monopoly of force, it would be smart to ensure that the Kassem rocket firing ceases so as not to give Israel the slightest pretext to act.

Hamas needs time to consolidate its rule and to prepare for the next round of hostilities, imo.

7:48 PM  

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