The Gaza Arabs have not yet recovered from the damage of the recent war, with tens of thousands still in evacuation centers, unable to rebuild their bombed houses, Al monitor’s Adnan Abu Amer reports this week. It appears that the gamble the Hamas government had taken last summer, to refocus the Arab world’s attention on its needs by provoking Israel into a shooting war ended in a 1945-Berlin kind of outcome. Now they’re desperately trying to deal with the consequences.
The border checkpoints, blocking Palestinian traffic both into Israel and into Egypt, have remained closed for the most part. Revelations of continued Hamas underground tunnel digging have slowed down the flow of cement and other construction goods from Israel, and so no reconstruction operations have kicked off, well into the rainy season. The Gaza Palestinians are saying this means the terms of the cease-fire agreement have not been implemented.
The Hamas capacity for misunderstanding their role in perpetuating the misery continues to be as robust as ever. Abu Amer quotes several frustrated senior Hamas leaders who have threatened “to escalate matters, ” should Israel not comply.
The most remarkable threat was made by senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, who “alluded to possibly renewing the fighting if Israel fails to respond to Palestinian demands.”
Yes, their capacity for not learning from past experiences also appears intact.
Deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau Mousa Abu Marzouk insisted, however, that his movement does not want another war with Israel, but fighting would be inevitable unless Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel are opened.
On Nov. 1, Abu Amer reports, an RPG was launched from Gaza in the direction of southern Israel, and Israel responded by closing the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings south and north of the Strip. Then Israeli warplanes took to the Gaza skies, as a not-so-gentle reminding of the consequences of war.
An al-Qassam Brigades field commander who requested anonymity told Al-Monitor, “Al-Qassam Brigades are fully ready for all confrontation possibilities with the Israeli army, and can counter any aggression against Gaza. The cease-fire agreement does not prevent the conducting of rocket tests or restoration of our military capabilities. We are fully entitled to gear up for any future confrontation.”
Now, ask yourselves why the brave commander insisted on his anonymity? Could it be that he’s grown less popular with his neighbors, seeing as the neighborhood buildings are now little more than heaps of rubble?
On Nov. 5, Khalil al-Hayya, member of Hamas’ political bureau, urged the Nuseirat refugee camp owners of devastated homes to start a popular revolution to claim their rights. He blamed Israel, the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA for the reconstruction failure and warned of a popular explosion.
Of course, terror tunnel building had to go on uninterrupted.
Hamas is aware that the Palestinian public does not want a new war, and many regional positions are hostile to Hamas, according to Abu Amer. Senior Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef said it explicitly in October: “reconstruction in Gaza requires putting an end to Israeli pretexts by suspending armed action for several years and being fully dedicated to rescuing people from the suffering that the Israeli aggression inflicted. The next stage shall not be dedicated to war, he said, but to reconstruction and rebuilding efforts.”
Good on you, Mr. Yousef. And good on you, undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, for ruling out a new war in Gaza, when you stated: “Although the faltering process of reconstruction in the Strip and the failure to accelerate it may generate angry reactions and a state of tension and congestion, this does not necessarily mean an open war.”
But let’s not forget the sane voices inside Hamas, such as undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza Ghazi Hamad, a moderate Hamas figure, who told Al Monitor that “there are parties out there hindering these solutions under unconvincing slogans, especially as the regional factor and tension in the countries neighboring Palestine may confer on Israel an umbrella to fight the Palestinians in Gaza without them having any regional support.”
This means, in plain English: if we start a new war, Israel will hurt us even worse, and the Arab world will cheer them on.
So it’s a learning process.