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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Did Hamas' strategy backfire?

At Hot Air, Captain Ed looks at the same article I looked at in this post and concludes that Hamas' strategy of bringing the 'truce' to an end by bombarding Israel with rockets has backfired.
Egypt’s shift shows more clearly the miscalculation by Hamas. The Arab nations had successfully pressured Israel into lifting parts of its embargo against Gaza while the truce remained in place, in name only for the most part. Their publicity stunt in ending the truce and increasing the rocket attacks threw away what success they’ve had in pushing Israel back. They may have reached the same conclusion I did in yesterday’s post — that Hamas just wants a war of annihilation, and nothing else. They may be prepared to let them have it. They’re certainly handing Hamas the blame for this war, and in public, which is a significant change in attitude for Egypt.
At Powerline, Scott Johnson reaches a similar conclusion.
What's clear to the Egyptians, the Palestinian Fatah leadership, the Saudis and the GCC states is that Israel's current war to neutralize the Hamas threat also sets back Iran's aggressive project to reshape the Arab Middle East in its image.

Ironically, the Iranian regime's "New Middle East" -- not the version that had earned President Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat a Nobel Prize -- could leave Israel in a stronger regional position if it beats Hamas into the ground, and uproots its terror infrastructure. It would be called a humiliating defeat for Hamas' leadership and its Iranian overlords and it would lever up Israel's position with Arab neighbors who have been paralyzed from acting against the same Iran that threatens their very existence.

If Israel continues to avoid Palestinian civilan causalites and uproot Hamas, the Arab states will honor Israeli power and Israel's will to use it, that in this case protects their future too.
But while the Arab governments (and Abu Mazen's Fatah) seem to be passively backing Israel in the current conflict, the 'Palestinian street' is firmly in Hamas' corner, and there is nothing the autocratic Arab governments fear like the 'Palestinian street' and its potential destabilizing effect on their own people.
“In case of such massacres, you sympathize with the victim, and in the eyes of the ordinary man in the street, the victim is now Hamas,” former mayor of Gaza, Majid ‘Aouni Abu Ramadan, told The Media Line Sunday morning.

Abu Ramadan, an independent politician who was ousted by Hamas last year after a military coup, explained that, “even those who were opposing what Hamas was doing in the last 18 months in Gaza are now united in blaming Israel.”

In the past few weeks, Palestinian Authority officials close to ‘Abbas announced they were considering holding joint elections for both the legislative council and the office of the chairman. Israel’s assault on Gaza is now expected to change this time schedule, Abu Ramadan believes.

“I am sure this operation will delay any proposed elections. Beforehand, there was a large faction in Gaza which supported his [‘Abbas] call for holding elections, because after all we want to be a democracy here, but now – after the operation which has claimed many casualties, especially among civilians – I think the mood and the morale will go to the right. There will be more extremism and the popularity of Hamas will most probably increase,” said Abu Ramadan.

Dr. Firas Milhem, of the Ramallah-based Bir Zeit University, also believes the operation in Gaza will damage ‘Abbas’ standing in the Palestinian street.

“This will have negative effects on the image of Mahmoud ‘Abbas in the West Bank. The Palestinians see that one side [Hamas] resists Israel and the other side stays neutral. People who are aligned with Hamas will even say ‘Abbas is cooperating with Israel,” predicts Milhem.
I am sure that many of you recall that at the outset of the Second Lebanon War two years ago, the 'moderate Arab states' (particularly Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) were said to be passively backing Israel. That support eroded, partly due to the invention of civilian casualties in Lebanon (see Qana, for example) and partly because Israel did not strike while the iron was hot by undertaking a ground attack and hitting Syria.

At the end of the day, the main goal of regimes like the Mubarak regime in Egypt is to keep itself in power. If 'Palestinian' support of Hamas results in massive pro-Hamas demonstrations in the Arab streets (such as took place on Saturday in Cairo, Beirut and other major cities), you will see any passive Arab support for Israel's actions quickly erode.


At 6:44 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Arab regimes are caught between the hard rock of their cultivated hostility to Israel and their fear of Iranian suzerainty. I find the irony of the situation in which they now find themselves just delicious to contemplate.


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