Palestine Pulse

Hamas wonders if Bibi victory will lead to war

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Article Summary
As soon as the Israeli elections results were announced, Hamas expressed its concern that Benjamin Netanyahu might start a fourth war against Palestinians.

The Israeli election results disappointed Palestinians, who see the right-wing’s March 17 victory as a former policy reinforced — one that involves halting negotiations, continuing to freeze Palestinians’ money and maintaining the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’ stance on Benjamin Netanyahu’s win was voiced by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who told Al-Monitor, “Hamas does not differentiate between Israeli parties because they have all agreed on denying our people’s rights and practicing aggression against them. The resistance is capable of imposing certain terms, and the occupation leaders, whoever they are, should evaluate their stances after their defeat in Gaza.”

Ismail Haniyeh, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, said March 19 that the Israeli elections did not surprise Hamas because of the Israelis’ religious and political nature, and he called on building a national strategy in response to it.

Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas will proceed with its project of armed resistance, regardless of who presides over the Israeli government. With Netanyahu’s victory, the anticipated collapse of the peace process affirms that the armed resistance’s approach is in the right place. Netanyahu’s victory indicates the Israeli society’s proneness to radicalism.”

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The statements were aimed at showing that Hamas officials couldn’t care less about the Israeli elections. Still, some Hamas members were clearly disappointed by the results because Hamas would have liked to assert that Netanyahu’s loss is a result of the Gaza war last summer.

Hamas is waging an unannounced, but real, battle against Netanyahu, in response to the two wars in 2012 and 2014. The movement expected his electoral defeat to be a political and military message for Palestinians to show that the armed resistance is able to make core changes in the Israeli map.

Osama Hamdan, the head of Hamas international relations, told Al-Monitor, “It is too soon to talk about a possible war in the wake of the Israeli elections because threats to wage such a war are mere electoral bidding. A comprehensive armed aggression is unlikely as Israel had to rehabilitate its forces following the last war.”

Although Hamas ruled out the possibility of a war on Gaza after the Israeli elections, it is worried that Netanyahu’s re-election means that Israelis have delegated him yet again to deal with Hamas on a military level. Despite the costly expenses of the war on both sides, Israelis re-elected Netanyahu because they think he is the most powerful candidate to fight Hamas.

Perhaps what worried Hamas even more is the Israeli army’s announcement March 22 that military training was taking place along the borders with Gaza.

Hamas media coordinator Taher al-Nounou told Al-Monitor, “Hamas considers all Israeli parties similar as they share the same policy vis-a-vis Palestinians. The only way to confront them is through resistance.”

Hamas might not be completely against a political deal that would put an end to renewed wars in Gaza. After all, the movement would like to catch its breath and allow Palestinians to enjoy a good life in Gaza. Besides, Israel needs to be alert to threats that are more dangerous than Gaza, like the volatile situations around it in Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

In Palestine’s domestic arena, Hamas seized Netanyahu’s victory and called for reconciliation with Fatah. Talking to Al-Monitor, Rishq demanded “promoting the Palestinian reconciliation to face the results of the Israeli elections.”

Meanwhile, on March 18, Hamas political bureau senior member Mousa Abu Marzouk called on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas “to implement the reconciliation because there is no better way to respond to the Israeli governments than the consolidation of Palestinian unity. The Likud Party’s victory necessitates that Abbas implements the reconciliation, whatever the cost.”

In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran called on “Fatah leaders to take a strategic decision to practically implement the reconciliation, following the results of the Israeli elections, and to map a united national strategy.”

On March 19, Netanyahu said that the PA must cut its ties with Hamas to resume talks.

On March 21, Hamas described Netanyahu’s calls as manipulation and an insolent provocation attempt.

Hamas is well aware that Netanyahu’s return to power is a strong incentive for the PA to rekindle reconciliation talks to pressure Israel. If the Zionist Camp had won in the elections, perhaps any talk about reconciliation with Hamas would have remained suspended.

Nevertheless, Hamas feels Netanyahu’s victory might have positive repercussions on a reconciliation with the PA. Hamas’ burdens in Gaza have increased, and the movement wants the consensus government to share these burdens with it so that it won’t be the only one responsible for the suffering and deteriorating situation of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmad Majdalani, a PLO executive committee member, said March 22 that an official delegation would visit Hamas in Gaza to discuss the reconciliation, without specifying the date of the visit.

A senior Palestinian official who frequents Abbas’ office told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The delegation will be headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, the member of Fatah’s Central Committee, and it will discuss several issues with Hamas. These issues include the elections, Gaza’s employees and defused tensions with Israel. The reconciliation is important for facing Israeli pressure and the return of the right-wing to power.”

On March 19, Haniyeh voiced his support for sending a Palestinian delegation to Gaza to hold a conclusive dialogue to reach reconciliation and build a Palestinian strategy in response to the Israeli elections.

It has become clear that Palestinians were affected by the Israeli elections and that Hamas witnessed political hubbub as soon as the results were announced. Although Hamas’ concerns were not as deep as those of the PA, which was betting on the victory of Netanyahu’s rival, it is not comfortable with its options under the rule of a man who will govern Israel in the coming years for the fourth time.

Hamas seems to be racing against time to keep a fourth war with Israel at bay. There might not be a big change in the Israeli government's party composition, which means that Hamas will have to face the same option, the cost of which it fears.

At the same time, Hamas said March 22 that it would seize any regional and international initiative to assert a five-year truce with Israel in Gaza, but that it would have to be one that would not separate it from the West Bank.

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Found in: right wing, palestinians, palestinian-israeli conflict, palestine, israeli elections, hamas, gaza strip, benjamin netanyahu

Adnan Abu Amer heads the Political Science and Media Department of Umma University Open Education in Gaza, where he lectures on the history of the Palestinian cause, national security and Israel studies. He holds a doctorate in political history from Damascus University and has published a number of books on the contemporary history of the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also works as a researcher and translator for a number of Arab and Western research centers and writes regularly for a number of Arab newspapers and magazines.

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