Gaza Coup detat
Islamization is coming
In response to what happened in Gaza last week, Dr. Sa’eb Erekat the Head of PLO Negotiations Department, said in 14/6/2007 “This is the worst event Palestine witnessed since 1967 war defeat”.
In the opposite Sami Abu Zuhri the one of the spokesmen of Hamas in Gaza declared cheerfully in a Hamas Radio broadcast in Gaza last Friday 15/6/2007 that what happened is the second liberation of Gaza Strip: “The first liberation was from the herds of Israeli settlers, and this second is from the herds of the collaborators with Israel” as he said. Other Hamas leaders used to call those who were defeated to be the “Lahdis” (referring to Antoin Lahd the head of the Previous South Lebanon Army that was connected to Israel), and they even differentiated between those “Lahdis” and Fatah, saying that the clashes took place only with the “Lahdis”, and not with Fateh in any way.
The question in this regard is: Why Erekat and all the PLO factions released very pessimistic reactions towards what happened in Gaza?, while Hamas is cheerful of it, and even organized marches and public meetings in order to celebrate the second liberation of Gaza?
The only answer for that is that the PLO and the Palestinian National program era is in the process of declining, while the new ea of Islamisation is growing. This new era began with the Hamas Victory in 2006 elections, and got more momentum with Hamas unilateral control of Gaza beginning from Friday 15/6/2007. The question now is if this will be a first step to take over West Bank (or probably Egypt) by Hamas or the Moslem Brotherhoods? The new future events will give the answers for such a question.
Islamization Versus Nationalism
In the times of Palestinian nationalism, the Palestinian national agenda was the priority, the work for that agenda in order to get to a Palestinian state was almost every thing PLO and its factions were busy with.
Today it is another story. The Palestinian national issue is a one point in Hamas agenda. As part of the Muslim Brotherhoods their main issue is the creation of an Islamic Caliphate system. Therefore what might follow their taking over Gaza is not necessarily to take over West Bank, in case that the situation in it will not be ripe, but it might be Egypt for instance if it will be ripe before West Bank for that Islamization. Put it differently: The Muslim brotherhoods, including Hamas will work for Islamization, upon where it is possible first, without restricting themselves to a certain national agenda that they already believe that their agenda transcend it. This is why Hamas are not frightened from issues such as the separation of Gaza from West Bank and the prevention of the establishment of a Palestinian state, as the PLO factions accused them doing. Simply these issues are not their major agenda. Moreover Hamas as a Muslim brotherhoods branch in Gaza and also West Bank will work also to take over West Bank after Gaza in order to avoid separating them from each other.
With all of that said, one should add that the Muslim Brotherhoods were found in 1928 in order to regain Islamic caliphate system, since that time they were unable to achieve that in any of the Islamic countries. Therefore they will not hesitate to do it in Gaza, by establishing a semi caliphate in the shape of Islamic Emirate there, the destroyment of the Yasser Arafat (and Abu Mazen) houses in Gaza as the biggest symbol of the Palestinian nationalism is, but a signal on that direction, while what will follow will be bigger.
The Islamization Process
How the Islamization process of Gaza Strip will happen?
This is something is important to follow because, this is the first time where Muslim brotherhoods are ruling, and it will be a rehearsal of what they will do in other countries when they take them over later on.
No full answer for such a question exist yet, but the few statements made by some Hamas leaders in Gaza, are giving signals about the willingness of Hamas leadership to impose the Islamic rules in Gaza. In Friday 15/6/2007 speech of Sheikh Ismail Hannieh, he asked Al-Qassam Brigades to deal with the hostages from the PA defeated security forces according to the “Islamic tolerance” rules which obviously tolerate those who did not kill previous Hamas members, while rule at the sametime of executing those who killed or attacked Hamas members.
In another example Shiekh Nizar Rayyan one of Hamas leaders said in Thursday 14/6/2007 that what happened in Gaza was a conflict between Islam and apostasy, and that it is finished by the closing of the era of secularism and atheism in Gaza. He added that he will transform the PA security forces headquarters in Gaza to a mosque, and that he will make a Friday pray speech in the Muntada (The President Abu Mazan Headquarters in Gaza).
If one add to these statements, the growing activities of several Salafi groups in Gaza that are supported by some Hamas wings and act against the internet Cafes and the women that do not put scarfs at theirs heads and against Christians, then the trend towards imposing Islam on all Gazan’s including on those who do not believe on it, will become more clearer. What will take place after is the range and the type of Islamization that will be implemented on the basis of the differences of the positions of different Hamas wings, but this is a detail, and it will not influence the main direction which is a direction towards Islamization.
The direct response to that process of Islamization was not that some Fateh people are trying to leave Gaza, but also the secularls, the intellectuals, the private sector businessmen, the NGO’s leaders, and most of the liberal democrats who all are leaving because of the threats on their lives. Unfortunately in other hand that this will accelerate the process of Hamas imposing it roles in Gaza.
Peoples life in Gaza
Beyond the Islamisation process that will be accelerated in Gaza the other question is: How the people will live in Gaza now on?
First: Security: The irony here is that the man in the street will feel better security now with Hamas unilateral control of Gaza, but in the same time violence will continue, including extra judiciary killings for revenge and counter revenge, and executions of those who are considered to be apostates or collaborators*
Other issue that will influence security will be the contradiction between the security forces of Hamas, and those who will receive the orders from Ramallah. This is a future contradiction because in the short run Hamas will be the full authority in Gaza.
Second: The internal political map in Gaza will change. Hamas itself will witness a growing influence of its extremist and ideological wings who want to Islamize the society, while Fateh in Gaza already lost (at least temporarily) its trend that wanted to crush Hamas down (this trend was defeated in the last week events), alternatively other two Fateh trends will grow now in Gaza one led by Ahmad Hilles the Previous general secretary of Fateh in Gaza, whom prevented his supporters to fight against Hamas in the last week events, supported in that by Mr. Ibrahim Abu Naja the head of the factions national follow-up committee and whom will try now to get to a comprise with Hamas on daily life matters taking the new context in consideration while other trend from Fateh will comply completely with the new structure of power in Gaza trying to find solutions for personal and individualistic problems within that new power structure.
The new opposition to Hamas in Gaza will be now the Islamic Jihad, with their national agenda for continuous resistance for the Israeli occupation without stoppage through ceasefire as Hamas proposed several times. But more dangerously the new Al-Qa’eda type organizations of Suyuf Al-Alhaq (The Swords of the Right), Jaish Al-Islam (the Army of Islam) and the Kata’eb Al-Jihad Al-Muqaddas (The Brigades of Holy Jihad), who are also supported by the extreme ideological wings in Hamas.
Hamas by itself will be divided between those who are more ideological (Mohammad Zahhar and Nizar Rayyan) and those who are more political and less ideological (such as Ghazi Hamad the spokesman of the Government, who was silent all around the previous weeks of attacks). Hannieh is leading while taking the middle position between the more political and the more ideological, because he needs both: He needs the ideological in order to Islamize the society, and also in order to continue crushing the Fateh resistance enclaves in Gaza, and needs the political in order to speak with the wider world.
Finally Fateh wing that was defeated might continue the attempts to fight back, but this will be reflected in minor incidents here and there, after they lost their premises and also their weapons that were all confiscated by Hamas.
Third: Economy and living: In the absence of an economy in Gaza after the election of Hamas in January 2006, and the international sanctions that followed, smuggling became the economy, and the way to make living for many people there. Now after the closure of all the crossing borders with Gaza after Hamas taking over, smuggling will increase including weapons and all goods unless the Egyptian side will be allowed by Israel (opposite to Camp David agreement) to deploy massive forces in the Egyptian side in order to stop that smuggling.
In other hand the employees of the PA in Gaza will continue getting their salaries either from the new Emergency Government of Salam Fayyad (the Prime Minster) composed in 17/6/2007. or (if appointed by Hanieh after Abu Mazen decision to fire him from his position, which he refused to comply with), from Hamas who will continue to get funding from the Muslim Brotherhood Branches all around the Islamic countries, and also from Iran, and probably indirectly from some Arab countries like probably Qatar.
Still the serious problems will be those that are related to the people living, and mainly if Israel will continue closing the crossing borders which will not mean only disconnecting Gaza from West Bank completely, but also will mean the prevention of the humanitarian assistance of the UN organizations and others to reach the needy people in Gaza. Moreover Israel will prevent importing goods to Gaza through the Israeli ports.
Timing and motivation
About timing, there are two issues: One of them is that the coup de ta in Gaza was well-prepared through a long period of time that created a very effective plan led to the defeat of the PA security forces in only three days of real fighting.
The second issue about timing is why now, the answer is that Hamas felt that there are something prepared to crush them, they felt that with the declaration of the American Benchmarks plan in the end of last April, aiming as one of its aims to support the presidential guards in order to take the responsibility of security in the seemliness with Israel in Gaza. They considered this (linked also with the training of more security agents supportive to Abu Mazen in Egypt) as the preparation to crush them, while Abu Mazen was not ready at the sametime to make a progress on the two issues that Hamas was looking for as a fulfillment of previous agreements between Abu Mazen and Hamas, these two issues are; The issue of security partnership and the re-composition of the security departments in order to include Hamas members, and the issue of political partnership in the PLO, and also in the PA through increasing the number of Hamas employees in the Ministers in order to balance those of Fateh.
Abu Mazen from his side was not able to fulfill his promises in these two issues due to strategic differentiations with Hamas for instance: How can he bring them in PLO while they reject the PLO previous agreements with Israel. If he bring them with these rejections positions, the PLO then will be deligitimized regionally and internationally and it will become a non-partner. In other hand Abu Mazen did achieve an agreement with Hamas on the creation of a central joint security force to be led by Said Fannounch, but few days after Hamas initiated the war against the PA security forces aiming to get to a unilateral control of the security in Gaza.
What does that all mean?
In one hand the Hamas felt threaded by the American Benchmark plan and the training of new agents in Egypt, simply because it does not want to change its policies, and also simply because it want a full unilateral control over Gaza in order to promote Islamism. They claimed that what they did was a obligatory step in order to stop the security chaos. But the question still: Why they did what they did few days after Abu Mazen- Hannieh agreement to have a joint security force in Gaza, and also few days before the meeting of all the Palestinian factions that Cairo decided to invite all of them to, after it finished its unilateral meetings with all the factions?
In sum up of this point: The timing and the motivation are both connected to Hamas will to take over Gaza unilaterally, in order to serve the Muslim brotherhoods agenda and maybe also the Iranian agenda in its conflict with the West.
Why the fast collapse of the PA security forces?
In three days of fighting the security forces of PA collapsed like a cartoon in Gaza. Ten reasons are behind this very shocking collapse:
First: Hamas had new very good weapons that they smuggled from outside, while the PA security forces had only the 1994 old weapons that they were not allowed by Israel to renew, while in other hand they avoided smuggling weapons in order not to violate the agreements with Israel. Moreover they were trained to be forces for internal order preservation, and not for fighting.
Second: The fighting strategy: Hamas was free from stable positions, and therefore free to attack and to withdraw without high causalities. While the PA security forces were located in fixed places which caused a lot of causalities, damage, and then surrender.
Third: Hamas was well prepared, but the PA security forces as it was proved were not prepared for such a war, opposite to Hamas claims that they were preparing to crush Hamas later on.
Fourth: Part of Fateh did not fight besides the PA security forces, considering what going on as a condemned fight, while occupation continued.
Fifth: The absences of the leaders: Fateh leaders: (Mohammed Dahlan, Rashid Abu Shback, and Samir Mashharawai were in Cairo when the fight began, and instead of coming immediately to Gaza in order to lead their members, they continued their existence there. Also other PA security forces leaders escaped few months ago from Gaza to West Bank.
Sixth: Hamas was able to recruit supporters from inside the PA security forces. Those supporters helped Hamas finish the coup deta quickly and effectively.
Seventh: The repeated declarations in the last few months by United States Government and the Israeli one about possible security support to President Abbas security forces, was harmful to these forces that presented them to part of the Palestinians (including to “part of Fateh) as collaborators with USA and Israel against their people. The irony in other hand was that no support at all were given to Abu Mazen forces after all these declarations.
Eight: Abu Mazen did not give early orders to his forces in Gaza to fight against Hamas, an to leave their stable locations in order to win the battle.
Ninth: The history of the security forces on Gaza from 1994, which made part of the people hate them, including the clashes between them, their participation in corrupted activities, the torture and humiliation they practiced against prisoners including Hamas ones in 1994 to 1999, and their participation as an initiator of security chaos there.
Tenth: Hamas fighters were young dynamic fighters, while PA security forces were old and middle ages previous frighters who were looking for rewards and not new fighting.
This all left them without fighting spirit, and gave Hamas the capability to defeat them.
Adding to all of that, that these security forces suffered from the absence of salaries beginnings from January 2006, and from low salaries prior to that.
Who should do what?
Without analyzing the different Israeli Arabic, and international reactions maybe it will be more useful to move directly to who should do what?
I. In the PA:
The main issue that the PA need to handle is to finish the absurd situation in Gaza Strip. This task might need a month to be solved, or one or two years as some observers already indicated, or it might not be solved at all.
The one month option is build on what is included in the Basic Law, which give the President the right to declare a state of Emergency for a month only, if he want to extend it later on, he should get the approval of the PLC which is already run by Hamas majority. The optimistic scenario in this case will be that Saudi Arabia or Egypt or any other country will be able to get the two sides together, and get to an agreement on the issues that created the crisis: The issue of the political partnership, and the issue of security partnership.
This option is unlikely, because of several reasons, one of them that the PA is not ready to get together with Hamas before Hamas bring the situation back to what it was before the coupdeta, something that Hamas will not accept to do, and the second is that even the two sides will supposedly meet they will not be able to solve the strategic political differentiations between them.
The second option is that one to two years time in order to solve the problem created in Gaza. According to the observes the Arab mediators, and also the Palestinian mediators (such as Islamic Jihad, or PFLP who might volunteer to mediate in addition of possible contacts between people from Fateh and Hamas who believe on the importance of dialogue between the two sides such as Naser Al-Qudwah from Fateh, and Ghazi Hamad from Hamas), will need such a period in order to get the two sides to a new agreement that precedes the last March MECA agreement.
This option is also very difficult because (again) of the absence of a political consensus between the two side, unless the two sides will get again to another vague agreement like the one of MECA, that is by itself is a recipe for another future fighting.
Left then two options: One is that there will be no agreement at all, or there will be another new vague agreement that will get the two sides together.
So what Abu Mazen should do?
Abu Mazen should work on two strategies: the First one is to act on the ground as if the agreement with Hamas will not be possible. This option include building the PA structures, implementing developmental plans in West Bank and Gaza, rebuild a security force in Gaza in cooperation with Fateh and probably other PLO factions, delegitimize all Hamas military wings (and not only the Executive force of Hamas as he did), and bring Hamas military wings members to justice in West Bank, and the second strategy to prepare for dialogue with Hamas, while sticking to his position of making this dialogue conditional to bringing the situation back to what it was before the last coup de ta in Gaza Strip.
Eight important steps should be taken by Israel, in addition to its already decision to release the Palestinian monies by withdrawal Israel, and to transform them to the new government led by Salam Fayyad:
First: To allow Egypt to redeploy big Egyptian military force in the borders with Gaza in order to stop smuggling weapons to Hamas. This might recquire modifications on 1978 Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, or a new agreement, but this is still better than calling for an international force to be deployed there, something that Egypt already rejected.
Second: Raise the veto on building the PA security forces and provide them with weapons and ammunition in West Bank, in order to build the force that will be able to prevent Gaza Coup de ta to be repeated in any time after in West Bank.
Third: Open negotiations with Abu Mazen on the political horizon, and not to exclude the support to him on the security and financial issues which will make him look on the eyes of his people as a collaborator. Unless he will get them tangible political results. These tangible political results cannot be less than an agreement on the destinations (two stats solution) and a plan on how to get there within an agreed upon timeframe.
Fourth: To facilitate the process of allowing the humanitarian assistance to be brought in the Gaza Strip, and to differentiate between boycotting Hamas, and the need of not to boycott the peoples of Gaza, because this boycott if happened will give no choice to the people in Gaza than supporting Hamas against Israel, while a policy that will help disconnect them from Hamas is badly needed.
Fifth: To keep the crossings to Israel from Gaza open for those who are against Hamas acts, and to allow the new government members in Ramallah to freely travel to Gaza and back when their work will require that.
The crossings will be administered from the Palestinian side from the Palestinian civil servants who work already in Gaza crossing borders.
Sixth: To allow Jordan to send Bader Troops of the Palestinian Liberation Army from Jordan to West Bank in order to help the Palestinian Security forces, and also to allow Jordan to help train the PA security forces in West Bank.
Seventh: To work with Egypt an the EU on the following about Gaza:
- To rearrange Rafah crossing border to be directed by the Egyptians, and the European in cooperation with the Palestinian civil police.
- To have Egyptian military teams to reside in Gaza in order to protect the process of establishing new PA security structures in Gaza.
- To allow having Egyptian and European monitors in the seamline between Gaza and Israel.
III. The Arab Countries
As shown earlier Egypt will have a big role on Rafah crossing borders, inside Gaza in order to help rebuild the Palestinian security forces there, and in the seamlines between Gaza and Israel. Moreover Egypt has a big role of brining the Palestinians to a new political agreement that fits with the PLO previous agreements with Israel.
A big role is waiting Jordan to do in re-training the PA security forces in West Bank, and to send the Bader troops to West Bank.
- Help bring the Palestinian factions together.
- Through an international pressure: Get Syria to oust Hamas leaders from Syria, or to pressure them for political shifts in their positions.
If a political process will be created between Syria and Israel, the Syrian move against Hamas, or to moderate its positions might become more likely.
The Arab League and other Arab countries:
- Help bring the Palestinian sides together for a new political and security agreement.
- Promote more the Arab Peace Initiative, and find formulas in order to create the process towards a Middle Eastern Comprehensive solution.
IV The World and the Quartet
- Boycott Hamas coup de ta Government in Gaza, except for the attempt to influence their positions if still possible through relevant countries such as Turkey.
- Help run the Rafah crossing border.
- Help rebuilding the PA Security forces in West Bank and Gaza.
- Help create a clear peace process between Abu Mazen and Ehud Olmert with a clear agreed upon destination.
- Work with Syria in order to pressure Hamas leadership
- Create a compressive Middle Eastern Peace Process.
Management of Uncertainties
Still there are uncertainties around four big issues after Gaza Coup de ta: What is the fate of the two states solution? What is the fate of Palestinian- Israeli Peace? What is the fate of the Palestinian democracy? And what is the relationship that will be between the Israeli Palestinian peace and the regional stability?
First: The fate of the two states solution
After what happened, observes began to argue that two separate intities are established: One led by Hamas in Gaza and one led by Fateh in West Bank, Israeli observes added that Israel should deal with them separately.
As a matter of fact Gaza and West Bank are still united when it comes to the people which is one Palestinian people living in both, also all the Palestinian political factions have their branches in both West and Gaza which is also another uniting factor. In other hand Gaza and West Bank are almost completely separated from each other by Israeli restrictions on the movement between both of them since 16 years (beginning with the closure initiated in March 1993). Moreover now the Palestinian political structure became separated in both of them, with an PLO directed Emergency Government in West Bank, and Hamas Government in Gaza Strip.
Therefore, there are uniting faction and other separating factors which then will be the dominant: The uniting factors, or the separation factors?
It might be expected that Hamas will try now to promote the uniting factors through creating an Intifada against Israel in West Bank in order to “liberate” it after Gaza is liberated, accompanied with rockets from Gaza to Israel in response to any Israeli attacks in West Bank. In the same token it is now Fateh interest to destabilize Hamas authority on Gaza through actions against Israel initiated by Fateh in Gaza, as a sign also of showing solidarity with their West Bank colleagues who still under occupation. Moreover Hamas might also create Hamas other defacto Emirates in some West Bank cities where Hamas is strong such as Hebron, and Nablus in order to show that Hamas has power in West Bank, and that it is not Fateh Emirate as claimed.
In other hand the separation factors are not likely to come from Jordan and Egypt who are not showing willingness to take over West Bank and Gaza completely and to bring them back to Jordanian and Egyptian Full control. In the opposite Israel might chose to deal with Hamas in Gaza indirectly getting with it to a reciprocal ceasefire agreement which Hamas is calling for, while to deal separately with Abu Mazen about West Bank. The result of this will be a violence initiated by Fateh against Israel from Gaza, and violence initiated by Hamas and other factions against Israel in the West Bank.
This last point move this analysis to the second uncertainty which will decide about the fate of the two stats solution:
Second: The fate of peace, and the link with the regional factors
Among the uncertainties is the issue of what peace will be there after what happened in Gaza, and if there is a one that will lead to two states solution?
One scenario is that one that is presented by Hamas opponents, who say that Hamas of Gaza will impose a continuous ceasefire with Israel, in order to pressure its Islamic Emirate there. In this case they say that Israel should have an immediate agreement with Abu Mazen about withdrawal from West Bank and East Jerusalem, before Hamas will takeover these area too, while making also reciprocal ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza.
This scenario might proved to be wrong if Hamas will initiate an Intifada in West Bank, or also take over other cities in West Bank supported on that by Syria and Iran. The lesson here is that any solution that is less than a comprehensive Middle Easters solution that also include Syria and Lebanon, and also stabilizing the situation with Iran, will not be sustainable. With that it is up to Israel to choose a comprehensive solution approach upon the Arab Peace Initiative, while the USA will find a formula for stabilization with Iran, instead of the continuation of the talk about possible war this summer against Syria and Hizballah, or against Hamas authority in Gaza.
Alternatively one can expect the worse scenarios to happen if this process for comprehensive peace and stabilization will not be initiated.
Third: The fate of Palestinian democracy
What happened in Gaza has also its repercussions on Palestinian democracy, noticing that an elected Palestinian movement decided to use force in order to cancel another movement sharing the authority with it.
In response Abu Mazen already used to take actions according to Articles of the Basic Law which allow him to impose an Emergency situation for one moth. The question now is what will happen after the this one month expire in 14/7/2007. It will continue to be upon the democratic procedures if the two sides (Fateh and Hamas), will get to an agreement, and get again to a joint government in this short period, which is unlikely. The other democratic option for Abu Mazen is to call for early elections after the one moth period expires. The best is to decide the date of that elections with Hamas approval, and therefore the elections will be held also in Gaza Strip, otherwise it should be held even without Hamas approval, in order to avoid falling in the alternative which will be the extension of emergency law period, leading to authoritarianism.
Headlines of Civil Society Agenda
The Palestinian civil society have three main broad issues to work at:
First: To bring out a pact for peace and democracy that include all those who believe in democracy and peace and run together in the coming PLC elections in order to become an effective body.
Second: To initiate a campaign for civil peace and nonviolence in all around the Palestinian society.
Third: Another campaign should be initiated in order to promote democracy principles and values mainly among the new generation.
- (10) Headlines of Joint Peace Agenda
The Palestinian Israeli joint civil society cooperation might need also to focus on three issues:
First: Push to bring out an Israeli Palestinian agreement on the destination with a clear plan to get to it.
Second: Push to a comprehensive peace on the Middle East as a positive response to the Arab Peace Initiative.
Third: Build a network of solidarity and reciprocal support between peace, human rights, and democracy groups.
* The word “collaborator” in Hamas language is not only the “informer” who gives information to Israel only, but there are according to their language other different types of collaborator such as the political collaborator, the cultural collaborator, the economic collaborators, and the behavior deviation collaborator. For those who need more information: Dr. Saleh Abdel Jawwad wrote a paper on that on 1988.