Ismail Haniyeh has been quoted as saying, on 5 June 2014, to the Palestinians in Gaza, “Hamas will continue the armed resistance, whether or not we are in power”. Apparently, the photo and quote was posted on Bibi Netanyahu’s Facebook page. There is nothing surprising about such statements by Haniyeh and it means nothing in terms of the likelihood or otherwise of the new PA/Fatah and Hamas coalition governing partnership surviving. My hope is that it’s just political rhetoric.
International politics sees politicians saying one thing to coalition partners, another thing to international partners, something else to international non-partners and often something completely different to the locals, the voters.
Haniyeh is putting his life at risk by just going into a coalition governing partnership with the PA/Fatah. His prime concern is just staying alive. If Bibi was to do anything less than express repugnance towards Haniyeh, it would add to the risks to Haniyeh’s life. Haniyeh’s life depends on his maintaining his image as an aggressive leader at war with Israel and the mere whiff of a thawing in relations would put Haniyeh’s life in danger (and even if he were to remain alive, his position as leader of Hamas would be a risk). Remember, in this region, leaders who try to make peace are often assassinated by their own countrymen.
Bibi knows all this and his apparent anger is not a reflection of naivety nor is it rabble rousing – his comments are also part of this political to and fro. Hopefully, Haniyeh’s comments are just politics at play and, if they are, he knows that Bibi knows it and he also knows that Bibi’s comments are just part of the game of political tennis….and Bibi, of course, wants to keep his own coalition government together so he has to play politics at home as well as in the international arena.
For sure, Bibi hates Haniyeh and Haniyeh hates Bibi. The mistrust is mutual. For that matter, I don’t suppose Bibi and Abu Mazen have more amicable feelings towards each other! That does not mean that some sort of agreement can’t be reached (sorry about the double negative!). Practical considerations and pragmatism, not love, will bring the parties together. There is a lot of ground between bloodshed and love on which we can settle relations. The best chance we all have of moving towards some sort of ‘peace’ agreement is with a right wing government in Israel and our ‘partner’ being a PA/Fatah and Hamas coalition. It won’t happen between Israel and Fatah to the exclusion of Hamas. Hamas has got to come in from the cold if there is to be any chance of an agreement.
Between now and my hoped for ‘peace’, the aggressive language will get more aggressive, the threats will sound more threatening, the brinkmanship will move into ever higher gears…everyone is jockeying for position. I think the chances of ‘peace’ are greater now than they have been since the PA/Fatah and Hamas fell out with each other in 2007. Bibi is an astute politician as is Haniyeh. You can’t survive in the cauldron which is politics in the Middle East if you are not an astute politician.
There will always be moves afoot behind the scenes and what we see on the outside is PR and politics aimed at the locals on the ground. What is a big shame is that Obama is not equally as astute and he is out of his depth in this arena (and I don’t think he is able to be objective or dispassionate). He doesn’t have the insight required to really understand what is happening nor does he have the political strength. What Bibi’s Government achieves going forward will not be thanks to Obama but despite him.
Tough times ahead…..