President Mahmoud Abbas is living in an illusion if he thinks that his rivals in
Hamas would ever agree to lay down their weapons or cede control over the Gaza
Hamas has no intention of
dismantling its military and security apparatus. It also does not have any
intention of allowing Abbas's security forces to be stationed in the Gaza Strip.
This refusal is why the "reconciliation" deal that Abbas signed with
Hamas in Cairo in October 2017 will never be translated into facts on the
Hamas is prepared to give
Abbas anything he wants in the Gaza Strip except for security control. Hamas has
no problem allowing Abbas and his government to function as a "civil
administration" in the Gaza Strip by providing funds and various services
to government institutions there.
If Abbas wants to pay
salaries to civil servants in the Gaza Strip, that is fine with Hamas. If he
wants to pay for fuel, water and electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip, that is
also fine with Hamas.
Security control, however,
is the last thing Hamas wants from Abbas. For Hamas, security is a red line not
to be crossed.
What is behind Hamas's
fierce opposition to relinquishing security control over the Gaza Strip?
Hamas wants to retain its
weapons and security control of the Gaza Strip for two reasons: first, it wants
the weapons so that it can continue the "armed struggle" against
Israel; second, Hamas knows that the moment it hands over security control of
the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA), many of its leaders and
members will either be killed or imprisoned by Abbas's security forces.
Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas
official in the Gaza Strip, described Abbas's demand that Hamas dismantle its
security and military apparatus as "idiotic."
In a sermon he delivered
during Friday prayers at Al-Mahata Mosque in the central Gaza Strip on March 23, Bahr
said that the issue of disarming Hamas and other Palestinian
terror groups was "non-negotiable." Hamas, he added, will not hand
over its weapons to a Palestinian Authority government that conducts security
coordination with Israel in the West Bank. "The weapons of the Palestinian
resistance are legitimate weapons that will be used to restore our rights and
liberate our lands," the Hamas official said. "The armed struggle
[against Israel] is a right guaranteed by international law
Bahr's statements show that
Hamas still does not trust Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, mainly because
of their close security ties with Israel. For Hamas, security coordination with
Israel is a form of treason, and there is no way Hamas would agree to cooperate
with any Palestinian party that works with the Israelis.
Hamas continues to accuse
the PA security forces and Israel of jointly cracking down on its members in the
In a recent statement, Hamas accused
the Palestinian Authority of arresting 10 of its members there. The arrests were
carried out in the West Bank cities of Tulkarem, Nablus, Kalkilya, Hebron and
Ramallah, according to Hamas. Among those taken into custody was a Palestinian
journalist, Osama Shahin. Hamas said that two of the detainees have gone on
hunger strike to protest their "illegal" incarceration.
Hamas fears that many of
its leaders and members will face the same fate if it allows Abbas's security
forces to deploy in the Gaza Strip. Those who are fortunate will only end up
behind bars. Those who are less fortunate will be executed in public squares by
Hamas still has agonizing
memories of the days between 1993 and 2007, when the Palestinian Authority was
in control of the Gaza Strip. Then, many Hamas leaders and senior officials
found themselves either in prison or under house arrest.
Back then, one of the PA's
favorite methods of "torture" -- and humiliating Hamas leaders -- was shaving the beards of Hamas leaders. Several Hamas
leaders, including Mahmoud Zahar, had their beards shaven by their Palestinian
interrogators while in prison.
This was the Palestinian
Authority's technique of punishing the Hamas leaders. Muslims believe that,
according to Islamic teachings, it is mandatory for men to grow a beard. Prophet
Mohammed was even quoted as saying, "Be distinguished from disbelievers,
grow your beards and shave your moustache."
The Hamas leaders' fear of
what awaits them should they cede control over the Gaza Strip is not
In a March 19 speech before
Palestine Liberation Organization leaders in Ramallah, Abbas
threatened to "pour shoes on the heads" of the Hamas
leaders. The shoes, he said, will hit the heads of the most senior and most
junior man in Hamas.
Abbas's threat came in
response to the apparent assassination attempt targeting his Prime Minister,
Rami Hamdallah, and General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, during a visit to
the Gaza Strip earlier this month. The two senior Palestinian officials escaped
unharmed when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy in the northern Gaza
Strip -- an area controlled by Hamas. Abbas has held Hamas "fully
responsible" for the attack, while Hamas has denied any responsibility.
The attack on the convoy
has led to a serious crisis between Abbas and Hamas, and destroyed the
Egyptian-brokered "reconciliation" agreement between the two sides.
Under the current circumstances, any talk about Hamas giving up its security
control of the Gaza Strip sounds more like a joke, especially in light of
Abbas's accusation that the terror group had tried to kill his prime minister
and intelligence chief.
Hamas has spent the last
decade arming itself to the teeth. With the help of Iran and other Islamic and
Arab terror groups, Hamas managed to smuggle large amounts of weapons into the
Gaza Strip through dozens of tunnels along its shared border with Egypt.
According to some reports, many of the weapons, including missiles and rockets,
were smuggled during the period when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the
Muslim Brotherhood was in power between June 2012 and July 2013. Some of the
rockets and missiles were later used by Hamas and other Palestinian groups to
In addition, Hamas has
thousands of security officers and militiamen who will never agree to serve
under Abbas's security forces. This does not mean, however, that they will not
accept salaries from Abbas's government.
Abbas, for his part, will
never agree to incorporate the Hamas men into his security forces. He cannot, on
the one hand, accuse Hamas of being behind the botched assassination attempt on
Hamdallah and Faraj, and at the same time include Hamas militiamen and policemen
within his security forces.
Ironically, while Abbas is
demanding that Hamas disarm and hand over to his government security control of
the Gaza Strip, Hamas is talking about its desire to "transfer" its
weapons to the West Bank. Abbas wants to extend his authority to the Gaza Strip,
while Hamas is seeking to take over the West Bank.
Hamas wants to
"transfer" its weapons to the West Bank for two reasons: to overthrow
Abbas's regime and to pursue the "armed struggle" against Israel.
Fighting Israel is Hamas's
declared goal. Toppling Abbas's regime is its undeclared goal.
The weapons of Hamas are a
red line not "to be crossed," said Khalil Al Haya, a senior Hamas official.
"Everyone should stop
talking about these weapons, because they will remain to fight Israel. The
weapons in the Gaza Strip give power to all Palestinians, including Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas. These weapons will be transferred to the West Bank. The
transfer of the weapons [to the West Bank] will not be enough. They will be used
to fight Israel."
Abbas is fortunate to have
Israel sitting with him in the West Bank. Otherwise, Hamas would have succeeded
in its effort to topple his regime and "transfer" its weapons to the
Fortunately for the Palestinians, Israel is sitting in the middle between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Otherwise, Hamas and Abbas loyalists would be dispatching rockets and suicide bombers against each other. Instead of marching towards "reconciliation" and "unity," Abbas and Hamas have brought their people a new model of the "two-state solution": a Hamas-run emirate in the Gaza Strip and a mini-PLO state in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Abbas will continue to dream of returning to the Gaza Strip, while Hamas will continue to prepare for war against Israel and removing the Palestinian Authority from power.