They’re all at each other throats, which is okay by me.
[Diplomatic source: PA documents demand 98.1% of West Bank territory, describe internal security plans; Israel expects that with the breakdown of Jordan talks, PA will renew UN statehood bid in a matter of weeks.]
The Hamas Split and the Palestinian Political Mess
By Barry Rubin
There’s a serious split in Hamas reflecting the growing civil war among Islamists along Sunni-Shia lines. Each side is radical but the fact that they’re fighting among themselves weakens both of them.
The issues involved are tactical, not strategic. Indeed, what is ironic is that Khaled Mashal, who historically has been described as the radical, is following the approach that will seem moderate to the naïve while Ismail Haniya, described by the naive as the moderate is leading the ostensibly more radical faction.
Mashal signed a deal with Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas for a coalition between Hamas and the PA. Of course, neither partner trusts the other in the least. Mashal wants to take over the PA; Abbas wants to tame Hamas and recapture the Gaza Strip or—at least—present the Palestinians as united to the world in order to demand a state now without any need to make peace with Israel.
In contrast, Haniya claims that this deal is a sell-out to the PA cowardly compromisers. Haniya was just in Tehran where his hosts repeatedly warned him against the “compromising’ traitors in Hamas’s ranks. Of course, the deal with the PA is nothing of the sort.
What lies behind this split is the broader conflict between the Sunni and Shia Islamist camps. Haniya is siding with the Iranians, who have a lot of money but are Shia; Mashal is linking up with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which borders on the Gaza Strip, is Sunni, is now gaining power in Egypt, and belong to the same organization as Hamas.
I’m putting my money on Mashal. The Iranians can provide money but only the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood can ultimately be a real patron on the ground, forwarding money, men, weapons, and material goods to the Gaza Strip. If Hamas goes to war with Israel again it will be Egypt, not Iran (even if it has nuclear weapons) that will matter in the battle.
Abbas’s successor is almost certainly going to be more militant. There are two main factions in Fatah, and hence in the PA. The Arafat cronies, who are more corrupt and satisfied with the status quo, and the Fatah radicals, who’d like to see another round of fighting because they still believe in the group’s revolutionary ideology. The latter group includes both older and younger—notably Marwan Barghouti (he’s 53 years old but considered leader of the “young guard” which tells you something, doesn’t it?)—people who don’t work together.