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March 17, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9835

Palestinian Political Analyst: The Coordination Between Hamas And Israel Is Closer Than Ever

March 17, 2022
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9835

In a February 22, 2022 article on the Palestinian Amad website, journalist and political analyst Ashraf Saleh addressed the current relations between Hamas and Israel, stating that the coordination between them is now closer than ever. This coordination, he noted, is based on the principle of "economy in return for quiet," whereby Israel bolsters Gaza's economy on the pretext of providing humanitarian aid, while Hamas keeps quiet, an arrangement that benefits both sides.  Saleh warned that this arrangement is dangerous because it strengthens Hamas' rule, eliminates the PA's role in Gaza, creates a complete disconnect between the West Bank and Gaza and reduces the Palestinian cause to a series of economic demands. At the same time, he noted this arrangement can easily fail and that both sides are therefore hedging their bets: Israel attacks Hamas targets in order to keep it from gaining too much military strength, and Hamas maintains its ability to "change the equations in the blink of an eye," i.e., to revert to the use of force if the cooperation with Israel collapses.


Ashraf Saleh (Source: pulpit.alwatanvoice.com)

The following are translated excerpts from Ashraf Saleh's article:[1]

"Having failed to market itself to the world as an alternative to the PLO, which is controlled by a Fatah majority, Hamas is trying to become a new version of the PLO, and is doing so in its own unique way that seems quite clever, at least to me as an observer. The coordination between Hamas and Israel is [now] closer than ever, and constitutes a political arrangement under the heading of '[meeting] humanitarian needs' or 'breaking the [Israeli] siege [on Gaza].'  As part of this arrangement, it has been agreed that 30,000 Gazan workers will be admitted into Israel, most of whom will work in the settlements and perhaps even in army bases and bring millions of shekels into Gaza, and the first to benefit from this will be Hamas. This means strengthening Hamas' rule in Gaza by keeping the economy there from collapsing. That is, Hamas does not need a salvation government that will come to Gaza in the name of a reconciliation [with Fatah]. Nor does it need to draw closer to Ramallah in order to receive the external aid Gaza deserves, or in order to maintain [the situation whereby] Gaza's bills are paid by the [PA] government under [Prime Minister Muhammad] Shtayeh – which, as Shtayeh notes, is the government of all Palestinians. The money that will flow into Gaza – whether thanks to the Gazans working in Israel, the Qatari grants or countless other financial [sources] and projects – will increase the [intra-Palestinian] division and bolster Hamas' rule in Gaza…   

"Israel knows very well that Hamas' demands include a sea port, an industrial zone and a power station [in Gaza], suitcases of cash and providing [the Gazans with] jobs. It also knows that Hamas' strategy is an exact replica of the PLO's, namely negotiating with Israel towards  [the establishment of a Palestinian] state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Although Israel firmly opposes the two-state solution, it meets Hamas' small demands so as to give it a state within the Gaza [Strip], and it is also preparing [the ground for] leaving the PLO as it is, namely as [an entity with] a limited rule and limited influence over an area larger than Gaza but smaller than the [entire] West Bank. Israel is thus constantly working to coordinate with Hamas in order to perpetuate the existing situation. This is dangerous, because it means a complete disconnect between the West Bank and Gaza, in a way that reduces the Palestinian cause and transforms it into nothing more than [a few] economic demands, accompanied by an endless pursuit of an illusory political process that is already obsolete. Full coordination between Hamas and Israel is what might be called 'economy [in return for] quiet' and satisfies all the sides involved in this coordination – for Israel, Hamas, Qatar and Egypt [all] understand that if the PA, which is the one who finances Gaza, is allowed to run everything there, it will need a sum of 10 billion dollars, according to 'expert economists,' as 'Azzam Al-Ahmad, [a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and of Fatah's Central Committee], has said, and that is impossible, considering the financial crisis afflicting the PA.

"Egypt naturally deals with this reality in the context of defending its national security, of which Gaza's security is a part. Qatar, too, deals with this reality and uses Gaza to remain in the Arab and international picture. But… if the desire for an arrangement [between Hamas and Israel] becomes a reality, this arrangement may [ultimately] become a permanent peace agreement, especially if things advance to the point of [establishing] a sea port, an industrial zone and a power station, enlarging the number of permits [for Gazans to work in Israel] and opening the gates for young Gazans to emigrate [from Gaza] – for these components are considered [tantamount to] a peace agreement between Hamas and Israel.

"What happens if the coordination between Hamas and Israel fails?

"There are two ways this coordination can fail: One [is the scenario whereby] the PA  [continues] paying Gaza's bills, the reconciliation [between Hamas and Farah] succeeds and the PA resumes its partnership with Hamas in [managing] Gaza's resources and making decisions about Gaza. The other is [the scenario whereby] the Gazan factions come out against this coordination because they are dissatisfied with Hamas' performance, yet are compelled to maintain their ties with Hamas in order to avoid armed clashes that will complicate the Palestinian arena even further. First signs of such an uprising are already evident in statements made by the [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad [PIJ], which is the strongest [Gazan] movement after Hamas in terms of its military power. The PIJ has repeatedly stated that it opposes the arrangement between Hamas and Israel, especially the issue of the [work] permits…

"Hamas and Israel know that this arrangement can fail for the reasons I noted above, and that is why Hamas relies on alternatives and on changing the equations in the blink of an eye. Israel, [for its part], relies on coordinating with Hamas while also attacking Hamas [targets] in order to keep its military power from growing. For example, it allows money to flow into Gaza, but at the same time attacks tunnels, weapons depots and factories, as well as Hamas operatives. The picture is very complicated for those who are not adept at reading it, following it and profoundly understanding the structure of each side."      

 

[1] Amad.ps, February 22, 2022.

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