A Paradigm Shift: How Hamas’s Position is Better Than in The Past

A Paradigm Shift: How Hamas’s Position is Better Than in The Past

For image, see link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/world/middleeast/pledging-400-million-qatari-emir-makes-historic-visit-to-gaza-strip.html?_r=0
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, drove the emir of Qatar in Gaza City on Tuesday. Hatem Moussa/Associated Press.

Hamas’s legitimacy as a governing system in the Gaza Strip is unique for it has improved its status as a Palestinian leadership in the eyes of Middle East regional powers. Since 2006, Hamas has lived under economic, political and geographic pressure due to Israel’s blockade along with the International community’s unwillingness to recognize Hamas as a realistic participant in peace talks with Israel. The Arab Spring’s impact on the Middle East along with Israel’s policy to isolate Hamas has backfired against the Israelis. It is evident that countries are accepting the truth that all Palestinian groups must be included in any peace process. Recently, there has been an increase in Hamas’s legitimacy as the group continues to gain diplomatic acceptance by key Middle East regional powers.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu along with an Arab League Delegation arrived in Gaza on Tuesday November 20th to express solidarity with the Palestinian people during Operation Pillar of Defense. Tunisian and Egyptian high level officials also visited the Gaza Strip, showing solidarity with Hamas and the Palestinian people. In October 2012, the Emir of Qatar displayed public recognition for Hamas by becoming the first head of State to visit the Gaza Strip. During his trip, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa offered 400 million dollars to contribute to construction projects and the rehabilitation of roads. It is essential to emphasize that the Arab Spring has significantly benefited Hamas, improving its diplomatic position and recognition in the region.

The Egyptian government’s policy in sanctioning the Qatari Emir to enter Gaza through Rafah is a significant change in policy, something highly unlikely to have occurred under the Mubarak regime, which exercised policies of isolating the Gaza Strip. The Qatari visit is unique from a foreign policy standpoint because for years, it has wanted to partake in an increasing role regarding a peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis. Qatar willingness to play a role dates back to 2008 after Israel’s offensive against the Strip.

Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa’s visit to Gaza demonstrates that Hamas has gained more legitimacy as a Palestinian leadership in the eyes of Qatar, compared to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which did not receive a visit from the Qatari Emir. His lack of interest in visiting the Palestinian Authority serves as a blow for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is struggling to maintain legitimacy as the leader of the Palestinian people. Abbas is a leader the United States and Israel are more willing to negotiate with.

The outcome of Israel’s recent offensive against the Gaza Strip in November 2012 demonstrates the impossibility iof isolating Hamas, a policy that has been pushed by the U.S and Israel since Hamas gained control over Gaza in 2007. Egypt played a major role in brokering a ceasefire that ended 8 days of war between Hamas and Israel. Top Hamas officials met in Cairo where ceasefire negotiations took place. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed a diplomatic solution as long as "it promotes regional stability and advances the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike." Currently, Egyptian officials are meeting Israeli and Hamas officials on separate occasions to discuss the details of the ceasefire. These negotiations will include Palestinian demands for the opening of Israeli crossings into Gaza, which will end Israel’s tight blockade that has been imposed since 2006 following Hamas’s election victory. Hamas would like to see the opening of all four goods crossings between Israel and Gaza. Currently only one remains open.

In summary, evidence shows that since Hamas faced diplomatic, political and geographic isolation beginning in 2006, it has improved its position diplomatically with regional powers, which have openly showed solidarity for Hamas and the people of Gaza and challenged Israel’s offensive. A visit by a Qatari head of State along with Egypt brokering a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel gives the government in Gaza recognition and legitimacy far greater than its rival in the West Bank. The Israeli government is willing to negotiate with Hamas if it will lead to a lasting stability and security for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s desire to isolate Hamas as a legitimate leader of the Palestinians has only backfired. Whether one approves or disapproves of Hamas, it should be pointed out that Hamas defeated the Palestinian Authority in the 2006 elections. Israel’s siege on Gaza and its offensive in 2008 and its recent offensive in November 2012 will only increase sympathy for Hamas among regional powers, who are vocalizing their solidarity with the people in Gaza. In conclusion, all Palestinians must be included in a peace process if the process is to be considered a legitimate one. The sooner the Israeli government accepts this fact, the sooner we will be a step closer in a positive direction even though I am not optimistic about the ceasefire. Viable peace will not be achieved until all Palestinians are given the full right of return, Israel ends its blockade of the Gaza Strip and the United States plays a more balanced approach in the region. The U.S must play the role as a leader of peace, not as Israel’s lawyer, defending it no matter what.