By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch
Amid a new flare-up in Gaza, after an Israeli soldier was killed in an explosion on Gaza's border with Israel, there is still no agreement holding the increasingly fragile cease-fire together. Egyptian mediators in Cairo are trying to hammer out an agreement for a longer-term truce, but Israel and Hamas remain on opposite ends of every disputed issue, and neither side is giving ground, as Yediot Aharonot reports:
[Hamas] spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said [in Gaza that] a long-term agreement "will kill the resistance, which is the Palestinian people's legitimate right as long as the occupation continues to exist."
Hopes that U.S.-allied Egypt could coerce Hamas into accepting Israel's terms have not been realized at all; if anything, Egypt's tilt against Hamas during the war has weakened the moderate Arab nation's influence. The Hamas-aligned Palestine Information Center, quoting sources in Cairo, reports:
If the [disagreements] between the Hamas delegation and Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman are not resolved amicably; the political rift between Hamas and Cairo could widen.
Egypt took a negative stand against Hamas after the Movement succeeded in routing elements of the mutiny trend within Fatah faction of the disgraced Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan.
Hamas and Egypt became at odds since then, but bilateral ties worsened further after Hamas Movement implicitly accused Cairo of encouraging the Israeli aggression on Gaza.
Hamas emerges stronger politically
Another hope being dashed is that Hamas would be weakened politically by the military punishment Gaza took from Israel. In most Palestinian circles, it is recognized that Hamas may have lost on the battlefield but won in the domestic political arena, and that the militant group now presents an even graver threat to the Palestinian Authority's rule in the West Bank, which is heavily supported by the United States and Israel. Even Ghassan Khatib, a former PA minister, makes this point in the Israeli-Palestinian website bitterlemons.org:
Hamas, meanwhile, has been weakened militarily and therefore its room for maneuver in terms of direct confrontation with Israel has been narrowed. This may usher in a year of calm around Gaza. But the Islamist movement is going to come out of this war strengthened politically vis-a-vis its rival Palestinian factions, including Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Hamas may find, therefore, that in the next phase of the conflict it can more fruitfully operate on the political level and in the West Bank arena.
Palestinian split widens
With Hamas still in charge in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority's stature diminished even more, diehard supporters of the peace process say Israel and the United States should lift its boycott of Hamas and recognize it as a partner with the PA to peace negotiations. However, the enmity between Hamas and the PA has become so fierce—and violent—that such a merger seems impossible. The Palestine Information Center reports Hamas's accusations:
The Hamas Movement in the West Bank strongly denounced the transgressions of ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas's security apparatuses in [Hebron], saying that their outrageous acts exceeded all limits and their complicity with the Israeli occupation would remain an unforgivable blot.
Hamas said that Abbas's security apparatuses had waged, since the start of the Israeli aggression, a frenzied campaign of arrests in the ranks of its cadres in [Hebron] against the backdrop of events organized by the Movement in solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports the PA's countercharges:
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, launched a scathing attack on Hamas and accused it of seeking to establish an "emirate of darkness" in the Gaza Strip.
Abed Rabbo, who often serves as a spokesman for Abbas, told reporters in Ramallah that Hamas was "exploiting" the blood of the Palestinians in Gaza to cover up for its plan to permanently separate the West Bank from the Strip.
Abed Rabbo accused Hamas of directing its guns against Fatah activists in Gaza before and after the cease-fire with Israel. Hamas had turned hospitals, schools and universities in the Gaza Strip into temporary centers for holding and torturing Fatah detainees on suspicion of collaboration with Israel, he said.
- Read more of Larry Derfner's Mideast Watch.