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Is the Hamas government about to fall?


Danny Rubinstein, is normally an astute commentator. He tells us in two different articles that owing to international isolation, it is only a matter of time before the Hamas government falls. Is it really so?

First he wrote:

The Hamas leadership is in a panic... The immediate problem is paying last month's salaries. The
coffers are empty, and the previous government left debts estimated at $1.25 billion. Embittered cops rampaged yesterday through the streets of Khan Yunis, commandeered parliament offices and blocked traffic. The policemen, like all 150,000 Palestinian Authority workers, demanded to be paid.

Associates of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas have estimated that the Hamas government will fall within a matter of weeks or months. The question is what will take its place?

Then he wrote:

The battle against the Hamas government that began some weeks age has been very successful.

...The success of the war against the Hamas government is
expressed above all through an economic boycott....The government is also facing a diplomatic boycott. A few of the Arab states pay lip service to Hamas in the form of empty
declarations of support, but everyone knows that they, too, want to bring down
this government.
It now appears that the Hamas government may fall, but that will not greatly harm the Hamas movement. Just the opposite. It will increase support for the movement among Palestinians. PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar said last weekend that the international blockade of his government will only intensify the people's rallying around it. Apparently he is correct. The more the world refuses to accept the results of the democratic election in Gaza and the West Bank, the greater the sense of insult and the greater the anger of the Palestinian public. They believe they are being given a raw deal: the international community demanded that they hold elections, but refuses to accept the results.

What is the reality behind Rubinstein's assertions? Rubinstein wrote that the Hamas government is facing a diplomatic boycott, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The PLO/PNA mission in the USA is not closed. Hamas leaders are received everywhere and given encouragement. Rubinstein wrote:

The United States, the European countries, the United Nations, the Arab states and, of course, Israel lined up, to one degree or another, against the Hamas government, making demands and setting conditions.

If the Hamas is diplomatically and politically isolated, how do we explain this item in Al-Jazeera:

Russia says it had promised emergency aid to the Palestinian Authority, breaking with the EU and Washington, which have stopped funding to try to force Hamas to recognise Israel.

A Foreign Ministry statement said on Saturday the offer came in a telephone conversation on Friday between Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

"Mahmoud Abbas highly appreciated the intention of Russia, confirmed by Lavrov, to grant the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid in the nearest time," it said.

Perhaps Danny Rubinstein doesn't read Al-Jazeera, or doesn't trust it. Danny Rubinstein, however, writes for Ha'aretz, and in Ha'aretz there is a headline that tells us Qatar is giving the Hamas government $50 million. How did he miss that one? The same article states that Syria is opening bank accounts for donations to the Hamas. Here is another item, repeated in many places, telling us that Iran has also pledged $50 million to the Hamas government.
From Saudi Arabia, apparently, Hamas has only gotten warm words thus far:

JEDDAH, 14 April 2006 — Crown Prince Sultan yesterday reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s unwavering support to Palestinians and said the victory of Hamas in January parliamentary elections would not affect this historic stand.

“We believe that Hamas is part of the Palestinian people and we’ll not differentiate between Hamas and others. They are all our brothers and friends,” he said.

At the very least, we cannot call that "diplomatic isolation."

I am not gifted with prophecy. Perhaps the Hamas government will fall. I doubt it. The rest of Rubinstein's thesis, that Hamas is isolated or in deep economic trouble, doesn't seem to be borne out by the facts.

The centerpiece of Rubinstein's political fiction, however, must be this:

PA Interior and National Security Minister Said Seyam warned last weekend that the pressure to bring down the Hamas goernment will lead to anarchy in the territories. Many people share this belief. At least one Islamic Jihad figure told Hamas not to fear anarchy, to turn its back on guiding the government and to dedicate itself entirely to the war against Israel. Hamas rejected his recommendation.

Surely Danny Rubinstein gets the almost daily PCHR (Palestinian Center for Human Rights) bulletins. Here is a small sample that indicates the perfect order that is maintained there now, as opposed to the "anarchy" that would ensue if the Hamas government fell:

16 April 2006

2 Citizens Killed in Hebron and Khan Yunis and 1 Injured in Armed Clashes

Jamal Issa El-Owei'i, a 27-year-old resident of Hebron, was killed on Saturday, 15 April 2006, when shots were fired by a member of a city clan. The killing took place against the backdrop of a dispute between the two parties.

16 April 2006

3 Gunmen Injured in Clashes with Palestinian Police in Rafah

Three armed members of a clan in Rafah were injured as Palestinian Police confronted them during an attempted armed robbery in the Mawasi area of

16 April 2006

Gunmen Storm the Palestinian Legislative Council Office in Khan Yunis

In a continuation of the trend of attacking international institutions, which has become a feature of the ongoing security chaos in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), gunmen stormed the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) office in Khan Yunis. The attack, which took place on Saturday 15 April 2006, was carried out in protest against the deteriorating economic and political situation in the Gaza Strip, and against the government's inability to pay the salaries of employees.

5 Citizens Injured, including 1 Pronounced Clinically Dead

Five citizens were injured, including two children, in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in incidents involving the misuse or mishandling of weapons by armed Palestinian groups. One has since been pronounced clinically dead. These incidents are a continuation of the security chaos currently plaguing the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

As if to underscore the point, an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing claimed at least 9 lives today. While it is hard to prove the Hamas is aiding terror, it is certainly not doing much to stop it.

That is precisely why the Hamas government will not fall in my view. It has almost no function anyhow, and it provides no services, and therefore there is no pressure on it to perform and no reason why it should fall. If the same level of chaos prevailed under a real government, that government would have fallen a long time ago.

If the Hamas government were to fall, how would we know the difference?

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000450.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 2 comments

This article by Ami Isserof makes little sense. I have no idea whether Hamas is about to fall, but I can tell the difference between Hamas and the PLO, so the fact that the PLO office in Washington remains open is no proof that Hamas is not being boycotted, and a "promise" of some undetermined amount of aid from Russia, at some point in time, does nothing to relieve the immediate financial situation of the Hamas government.
It does seem clear that Hamas is not willing to take the steps it would have to to control Islamic Jihad - whether through lack of ability (since it does not control the security forces) or because it thinks it is convenient to have missiles lobbed into Israel, or because it wants to (like Abbas) come to agreement with IJ without provoking a "civil war," I don't know. Whether it can survive this ambiguity also remains to be seen.
The instances that Isseroff cites are far, far from the anarchy that is possible.
How would we know that the Hamas government has fallen? For one thing, the minimal amounts of moneyt that have susteined (barely) the PNA would be restored. But nothing beyond would change so long as Israel continues to insist it has no one to talk to.

Posted by Whit Bodman @ 04/17/2006 08:13 PM CST

I have to go with Danny on this one. He warned about what Hamas could do in the Palestinian elections and was right on the money. I also feel Hamas might fall but that might lead to chaos if Fatah security officers stage a coup under the pretext of not being payed.

I agree that Hamas' fall could help stregthen Hamas and weaken Fatah. I do feel however the Palestinians might be discouraged to vote again feeling their vote is absolutely meaningless. The Palestinians might vote for Fatah again simply because they feel the West and Israel wants them to or too desparate to try to choose a group they really want. Palestinians seem to lose out on democracy. It's a shame since the Palestinians perform an election better than the other Arab countries that had elections.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 04/18/2006 08:13 AM CST

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