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August 18, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5822

Despite Cairo Talks, Wave Of Arab World Condemnations Of Hamas Continues: This Was No Victory; Hamas' Foot-Dragging On Egyptian Initiative Increased Palestinian Losses; Hamas Should Be Replaced By Peace-Seeking Leadership

August 18, 2014
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 5822

As ceasefire talks commenced in Cairo in mid-July, the Arab press published many articles summing up the Gaza fighting and discussing the Hamas movement's profit-loss balance in the conflict with Israel. Alongside articles commending the Hamas movement's achievements and viewing them as a victory for the resistance against Israel, many Arab writers, including Palestinians, sharply criticized Hamas and its handling of the conflict.

Some writers, while comparing the massive casualty rate in Gaza with the much more limited damage caused to Israel, argued that the victory celebrations by Hamas and its supporters were baseless and hollow. At best Hamas had scored a moral and media victory, they said. These writers regretted that Hamas had at first rejected the Egyptian initiative, thus causing the additional killing of Palestinians. They claimed that by rejecting this initiative, Hamas had served the interests of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and their allies, Qatar and Turkey, who are fighting the moderate Arab axis led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

In view of this, some articles even called for replacing the Hamas in Gaza with a new Palestinian leadership that will work to solve the Palestinian problem peacefully and would not strive to renew the fighting.

Below are passages from the articles critical of Hamas:

A. Hamas Should Be Replaced By New Palestinian Leadership

As noted, some writers emphasized the need to find a new Palestinian leadership to replace the current Hamas leadership, which, they claimed, had failed to care for the civilians and had caused loss of life and huge damage in Gaza. Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal even emphasized in an article he published that the alternative Palestinian leadership should invest its efforts in obtaining peace.

Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal: The Palestinians Need "A Leadership That Will Set Aside Its Perpetual Aspiration For War And Devote Its Efforts To Achieving Peace"

Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal, formerly head of Saudi intelligence and Saudi ambassador to the United States wrote in his article for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "…Hamas has repeated mistakes it made in the past [in conflicts with Israel]. Even though they reached Tel Aviv, the rockets [Hamas] fired at Israel do not endanger it – but they do complicate the Palestinian problem. The gap between the number of Israelis killed by Hamas rockets and the number of Palestinians killed by the superior and oppressive Israeli fire is enough to prove this [claim].

"The [fact] that Hamas accepted the Egyptian initiative, then rejected it, and then said that it seeks to amend the Egyptian proposals gave Netanyahu what he had wanted from the outset – that is, to be seen as the more level-headed [leader] whose boastful threats are[at least] based on logical arguments.

"The knowledge that Gazans' blood is being cruelly spilled, and that they are suffering, should have ended Hamas' arrogance, but that didn't happen... Furthermore, Hamas's alignment with the Turkish and Qatari positions was also a misstep, because apparently the leaderships of both those countries are very busy trying to deny Egypt its legitimate leadership role instead of preventing Netanyahu from delivering death and destruction to the people of Gaza.

"What has happened is even more unfortunate because Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were anticipating the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement as a means of easing their suffering... and now the opposite has occurred. I beseech Allah to grant the Palestinians a leadership that will set aside its perpetual aspiration for war and devote its efforts to achieving peace for its people. [And then] perhaps we can all live together one day in a world free of the horrors currently taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories. "[1]


Prince Turki Al-Faisal (Image: Saudiembassy.net)

Yemeni Journalist: Building The Individual Takes Priority Over Using Arms, Digging Tunnels

Yemeni diplomat and journalist Mustafa Ahmad Al-Na'aman wrote in his column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that a "normal" Palestinian leadership must be found that would act in the Palestinian interest: "Gazans in particular paid a heavy price in human and material terms. It is time for their everyday lives to be normal – and this will begin first of all with the lifting of the despicable siege, and will continue with a search for leaders who operate according to needs and interests, [a leadership] that understands that building the individual precedes talk of using arms, digging tunnels, and weapons smuggling...

"Hamas has no option but to recognize that it cannot fulfill its moral and political obligations, and to refrain from using the siege as the only justification for failure. It thinks that a one-time election [victory] grants it the right to continue [ruling] forever... This is the same fatal mistake made by the Egyptian MB, and [this mistake] sent its leadership to prison and forced its political organization back underground..."[2]

B. Hamas Ignored The Balance Of Forces, Caused Massive Destruction

Writers also rejected the claim that Hamas had gained a victory in the Gaza conflict, arguing that it had ignored the power disparity between it and Israel, thus causing irretrievable damage. A few of them also said that Hamas' negotiating demands were unrealistic.

Lebanese Journalist: Hamas' Considerations Are Mistaken, Its Demands Are Unrealistic

Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah, former editor of the London-based Al-Hayat and columnist for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, wrote: "So far, the Arabs and the Palestinians have lost all their wars against Israel because they disregarded the balance of power... True, Hamas can fire thousands of rockets at Israel. But what happens after that? Are the rockets a guarantee that the oppressive siege will be lifted from Gaza? Ultimately, Hamas and its backers will be unable to extricate the movement from its profound crisis by [starting] a new war.

"[Hamas] thought it could both embarrass Egypt and export its internal crisis to the West Bank in order to eliminate the PA – or what remains of it. [But] it became apparent that this plan is of the kind that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, and is as [ridiculous] as the plan to liberate Palestine from the sea to the river or from the river to the sea – whichever – starting in Gaza...

"Now Hamas returns to Cairo, knowing deep inside that the lofty talk of 'resistance,' of reopening the Yasser Arafat Airport in the [Gaza] Strip, of lifting the siege, and of the rockets fired from here or there is empty. The return to Cairo [for negotiations] – rejected by the movement only a short time ago – is proof that the policy of resenting Egypt has no future.

"It may be that the most dangerous thing Hamas did in fleeing from its internal crisis to an uneven confrontation with Israel's state terrorism was boiling the Palestinian problem down to Gaza [only]. With all due respect to Gaza, it is not the [entirety of the] Palestinian problem. The Palestinian problem is much broader; it concerns a people aspiring to a place on the map and the actualization of its legitimate rights, like any other people in the region.

"Soon the hour of reckoning will come, and the scope of the damage and the unimaginable destruction will become apparent. It will [also] become apparent that relinquishing the political confrontation with the Israeli enterprise and choosing a different path based on conflict with Egypt, as service to Iran and others, plays into Israel's hands... While the political victory is not assured, the military defeat is [indeed] assured, and [the latter] will eliminate any chance to someday achieve political victory.

"Does anyone want to listen, and to learn from the recent and distant past? Or does Hamas believe that it can liberate Palestine and Jerusalem just as it liberated the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007?"[3]


Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah (Image: Ekurd.net)

Palestinian Journalist: Hamas Didn't Win In Gaza

Palestinian journalist Dalia Al-'Afifi wrote an article titled "We Did Not Win," which was posted on the Amad.ps website: "...True, Hamas made some military achievements on the ground and achieved considerable success in terms of public morale. But it failed in the political management of the campaign, for several reasons, [including] its views as a party, and futile calculations [stemming from] its understanding of the [power] relations in the region – which caused the Palestinians considerable and avoidable casualties and material losses...

"Hamas could have inflicted pain on the enemy without bringing such a humanitarian catastrophe upon the Gazans, had it understood from the start the decisive significance of the Egyptian initiative and negotiated to improve the terms [of the ceasefire] and to realize the legitimate humanitarian demands that it placed at the top of its list, namely ending the oppressive aggression and lifting the unjust siege. [Instead,] it regarded the Gazans and their concerns as [mere] ciphers...

"Such tremendous destruction in a tiny area like Gaza... cannot be viewed as a victory, even had the Palestinians agreed among themselves about all their terms and demands, [a goal] they have not yet achieved. [Now] we will have an unconditional ceasefire, followed by a longer ceasefire which will eventually deprive Gaza of its ability to act – as though the objective of all the bloodshed and all the terrible suffering was to find a formula for improving the living conditions and the livelihood of the Gazans. [It seems that] the greatest demand and aspiration of the resistance is to lift the siege from Gaza, without linking this to any political demands regarding the [Palestinians'] national rights and principles...

"What concerns us today is the fate of the oppressed people of Gaza, who have lost every aspect of a [normal] life... This is where Hamas begins to shirk its responsibility and place it upon [the shoulders of] the PA and the national accord government, which exists [only] on paper."[4]

'Al-Hayat' Article: Hamas Lost Valuable Cards: Its Long-Range Missiles And Tunnels

Hassan Haidar, a columnist for the London based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, wrote: "The situation in Gaza is back to square one, with 2,000 dead and 8,000 injured, as well as massive financial losses... that will not help it emerge from the siege it has been under for years... The Hamas delegation to the Cairo talks knows that it will never obtain [concessions] from the Israelis that justify all these Palestinian deaths. [It also knows] that it will be forced to negotiate only with the Egyptian side to get the Rafah crossing opened under conditions set by Cairo – which seeks to ensure that Hamas does not use it for smuggling weapons and extremist fighters into Egypt. Furthermore, [the Hamas delegation] knows that the most it can force on Israel is a reciprocal calm – as it was until the current round of fighting...

"Hamas has lost the two cards that were meant to win it better results – that is, the long-range missiles and the tunnels... The human and material damage done [to Israel] by the rockets was minimal, especially when compared to the damage in Gaza. They also helped Israel receive additional American aid to develop the Iron Dome system...

"As for the tunnels, they turned out to be effective in the event of an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, but they did not accomplish Hamas' anticipated goal – that is, causing substantial damage to Israelis outside the Gaza Strip area. This means that a costly, years-long effort was in effect eliminated the first time it was used...

"This round [of fighting] has proven... that war will no longer help Hamas improve its status on the regional political map."[5]

Former PA Minister: Without Comprehensive Solution To Palestinian Problem, Hamas' Victory Will Remain Partial

In an article in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, former PA minister Ashraf Al-'Ajrami attacked Israel, calling its actions "Nazi-like", and criticized Hamas, while hinting that it didn't win in Gaza. Al-'Ajrami wrote: "If Israel did not win its war and only succeeded in destroying some tunnels on the border – many of which can eventually be rebuilt – what [then] is our victory? Is merely thwarting the Israeli plan considered a victory? Is targeting wide areas of Israel [with rockets] and making many Israelis living near the Gaza Strip leave their homes and go elsewhere, and those who remain behind spend long hours in bomb shelters throughout the war considered a victory?

"Is it removing the siege on the Gaza Strip that is the desired compensation for the heavy losses? Couldn't it have been removed or substantially eased by implementing the reconciliation agreement and allowing the PA to oversee the [border] crossings?

"These are questions that people may not be able to answer today, but are worth examining if we want to assess the results of this war – which is not yet over, even if signs point to a coming permanent ceasefire agreement.

"In any case, if the outcome [of the agreement] is not tied to solving the Palestinian problem in all its aspects, and if there is no real breakthrough in this matter, then our victory will only be a partial and moral one, which does not [correspond to] the scope of the massive sacrifices..."[6]


Former PA minister Ashraf Al-'Ajrami (Image: Maannews.net)

C. Hamas Served Iran, MB; Delay In Accepting Egyptian Initiative Caused Needless Casualties

Some writers charged that, had Hamas not rejected the Egyptian initiative, numerous casualties could have been avoided. They noted that Hamas had been exploited by rivals of the Al-Sisi-led Egyptian regime, namely the MB and its Qatari and Turkish allies, who sought to restore the MB's prestige after its defeats and ouster from power in Egypt. Some writers argued that Iran had deceived Hamas by inciting it to attack Israel while Iran itself stood idly by.

Fatah member Hafez Al-Barghouti, the former editor of the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "I think we arrived in Cairo late. The [Palestinian] factions should have found their way to Cairo weeks ago, not now. Egypt remains [the country on] Gaza's Western border; Gaza shares no borders with Turkey or Qatar. The decision whether to go to Cairo would not have been delayed had we been interested, from the start, in ending the violence and realizing our demands, not in the sparring of the superpowers, in scenes of censure and condemnation [against Israel], and in a media polemic that obscures [Israel's] murderous aggression in Gaza...

"Priority must be given to ending the aggression and the acts of massacre, before anything else. Whoever thinks Gaza is eager to continue suffering destruction and killing without limit is blind, and whoever refrains from acting to stop the aggression is arrogant. Gaza presented its people and its resistance as emblems of bravery, daring and steadfastness that would break the power of the invading [Israeli] ground forces; however, Gaza has no strategic depth, and, with the siege continuing, it cannot bring in supplies or reinforcements. Do we leave it this way and hold aloft the banners of victory? [I say to all the] leaders of the [Arab] capitals and factions: let us at least keep those who are celebrating [Gaza's] victory alive."[7]

Saudi Journalist: MB Blocked Hamas' Acceptance Of The Egyptian Initiative, Causing Further Casualties

Ahmed Al-Faraj, a columnist for the official Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, wrote in an article titled "False Victories": "The truth hurts. No one wants to hear it. But there is no way out of mentioning that Hamas, one of the main arms of the MB, was exploited by the mother organization to restore the latter's luster following the massive losses it has experienced since the onset of the Arab Spring – particularly after its removal from the Egyptian regime. [The MB] wants to reap the greatest [possible] benefit from the Israeli attack, at the expense of our residents in Gaza. From the beginning of the war, it ordered Hamas to reject the Egyptian initiative – and as a result, the number of dead and the destruction only increased.

"Finally, there was an agreement on a ceasefire [hudna]. This arouses outrage – because Hamas could have saved many lives had it not been arrogant towards Egypt, as it has been since the MB regime was toppled. Apparently, looking down on Egypt and the new Egyptian government has become an absolute [tenet of the] MB faith... All our Gaza residents' losses were sacrifices on the altar of the international MB."[8]

Jordanian MP: The War Exposed The Resistance Front As A Lie

Saleh Al-Qallab, a member of the Jordanian upper house of parliament, wrote in his weekly Al-Sharq Al-Awsat column: "Even before the cannon fall silent, it can be said that Hamas miscalculated by entering this adventure of the Gaza war. It relied on inaccurate assessments of the scope of Israel's [activity] in this war, and of the scope of activity by the MB alliance, which also includes Qatar and [Turkish Prime Minister and President-Elect] Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This, in addition to being deceived by Iran, which, raging, threatened to 'erase' Israel from the Earth...

"Hamas thought that the world would intervene and impose a ceasefire [on Israel], and that it could then declare its victory and victory of its alliance – which would change the numerous balances of power in this burning region. Hamas and the MB alliance believed they could trump the card of the PLO and PA, nd tha they could end the leadership of [PA President] Mahmoud 'Abbas and eliminate Fatah's pioneering leadership role – [a role] it has been fulfilling for 50 years of armed struggle and of constant national activity, in which it has racked up many achievements, chief among them attaining recognition of a state for the Palestinian people, albeit under Israeli occupation...

"Hamas and the MB alliance believed... that such a victory would [also] trump the card of [Egyptian President] 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi and of the June 30 Egyptian Revolution [i.e. the ouster of president Muhammad Mursi and the MB]... and [then the MB] could return to political life in Egypt... even if it could not bring Mursi back as the legitimate president, and could also win its war in Libya and return to power in Jordan, and emerge from its warrens in the UAE and in many other Arab and Muslim countries...

"[However], it was clear that Arab decision[-making] in the region is in the hands of the so-called 'moderate Arab axis', and that, in the struggle of ceasefire initiatives in the Gaza war, the Egyptian initiative had emerged victorious, having received Saudi Arabia's support in words and actions. The united Palestinian delegation's arrival in Egypt underlined... that Egypt had not lost its historic status...

"This difficult test, in which the Palestinian people lost pure blood, has put an end to the lie of 'the resistance camp,' of which [Hamas political bureau chief] Khaled Mash'al continuously boasted until recently, and of which Iran boasts to this day, [and which Hizbullah secretary-general] Hassan Nasrallah uses to defend non-Arabs [i.e. Iran] by threatening Arabs, as he believes that anyone not part of the [resistance] camp stands with Israel, with the [American led-]global arrogance, and with American imperialism."[9]


Saleh Al-Qallab (Image: Alarabiya.net)

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 26, 2014.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 10, 2014.

[3] Al-Rai (Kuwait), August 8, 2014.

[4] Amad.ps, August 7, 2014.

[5] Al-Hayat (London), August 7, 2014.

[6] Al-Ayyam (PA), August 6, 2014.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), August 5, 2014.

[8] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), August 9, 2014.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 8, 2014.

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