Despite the savagery of the incoming photos from Gaza, where the Israeli military machine has turned the skies into a fireworks display at the start of this New Year, one may momentarily extricate oneself from the feelings of anger and sadness to think for a while, and to address a message both to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and to the head of the Hamas movement, Ismail Haniyeh. This is the message, and I start by Haniyeh.
Mr. Ismail Haniyeh, I profess to you that any sane person will stand against the vicious aggression mounted by Israel on Gaza and on the Palestinian people there. But allow me, Mawlana [Arabic word translating as ‘your majesty’ but often used in addressing Muslim clerics], to face you with the facts. Let us assume that you attained victory against Israel, as Hezbollah attained victory against Israel in 2006. Pray tell what would your expectations be for the future of the Palestinian State, and for the role the Hamas movement would play inside this presumed State? The political ceiling of Hamas will be the same as Hezbollah’s today: An armed political party that strives hard to be in the internal Lebanese political equation in a formula that allows it to retain its arms, arms which are of course futile vis-à-vis Israel, in the presence of a multinational force that separates the two sides of the conflict, but at the same time remain as a source of worry for the Lebanese competitors in the political process. It did not get either the dates of the Levant or the grapes of Yemen! [Arabic saying meaning that it came out empty-handed]
As to what your mother organization, the Muslim Brothers movement, has attained in our Arab world in general, its ceiling in the Arab political process is known. In various contingencies under regimes that are strong from the security aspect, the fate of the Muslim Brothers anywhere will not differ from their fate in Syria after the [ 1882] Hama blow and the end of the movement as a worrisome organization for the regime at the time. Now the Muslim Brothers have become mere pockets of dissidents abroad, as is the case with Ali Sadr-al-Din al-Bayanuni, the General Supervisor of the Syrian Muslim Brothers group who resides in Britain. Under a less severe security grip and some openness, as in Egypt, the political ceiling of the Muslim Brothers is 80 seats in the People’s Assembly, or 18% of the parliamentary seats, with the movement still banned and hounded. As for Kuwait and Jordan, the ceiling of the Muslim Brothers group there is making a nuisance for the government and trying to harass it in the Kuwaiti and Jordanian parliaments. The Muslim Brothers have not taken control of either the Jordanian or the Kuwaiti Street. They have not brought down the authority in either country. As for the Brothers of Sudan, they seized control of the State then split among themselves, demolished it, and sat on the piles of debris, as we say in Al Sa’id [Southern Egypt].
So pray tell what you, Hamas, can accomplish with the Israeli presence if the military occupation of Gaza returns? Or what can the Hamas movement achieve under the authority of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and the Fatah movement if you are destined to reach reconciliation? If we take the first possibility, which is the return of Israel as an occupation power holding Gaza in a vice grip with its security bodies, then certainly nothing will remain of Hamas but symbols abroad. As for the second possibility, namely reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the maximum political gains for the Hamas movement in the foreseeable future is to be, as I mentioned at the start of this article, like Hezbollah in Lebanon. It should be noted here that the capabilities of Hezbollah that qualified it for the gains it achieved in the Lebanese interior definitely far exceed your movement’s capabilities in terms of the number of cadres, their training and discipline, and the quantity and quality of their weaponry.
Under the shadow of these postulates that are tied to the uniqueness of the Palestinian perspective and Israel’s heavy weight on its chest, and considering the unsuccessful experimentations of the Muslim Brothers in the Arab countries, I tell you, Mawlana, that you do not have ahead of you apolitical situation better than that in which you are today. So accept commitment to a continued ceasefire while you enjoy this popular sympathy on the Arab and Islamic domains. The continuation of this sympathy if not assured. Hezbollah enjoyed sweeping Arab and Islamic sympathy in the summer of 2006, but if it had started another war after this it would not have found any one to support it except its men in the [southern Beirut] suburb and some of the satellite TV heroes, the ones I refer to as the new space astronauts. You have to cover yourself with the political mantle the Arab countries are giving you today, and you have to support their step in New York and its results. In my assessment, this is the maximum that the Hamas movement can get today.
The second part of the message is directed to Mr. Ehud Olmert.
Mr. Olmert, you must know like Ismail Haniyeh the ceiling of what can be attained in Gaza today. The most that Israel can do militarily today against Gaza is what it has already done: Moving its tanks and soldiers and invading the town with ground troops. In this you will not be stronger than the Americans in their invasion of Al- Fallujah and the human and material losses inflicted on them by this neglected, forgotten town. You will not be more capable than the British and American NATO forces in Qandahar, where their Generals had to make a semi-admission of defeat. You will not be more successful than the French who, many decades ago, were exhausted by the rebels of Algeria until they departed from their country. The results of the Israeli ground thrust into Gaza are known. You will enter into a guerrilla war with the men of the Hamas movement in Gaza’s streets and narrow alleys. It will be a cruel war that will cost you a lot and earn you the wrath of the entire world. Your army’s men might have learned some skills in street fighting from their last war in South Lebanon. But you must realize that neither you nor any other force, however mighty, can eradicate a resistance movement woven into the fabric of its local community like the Hamas movement in Gaza, Hezbollah in South Lebanon, the Irish Republican Army in Ireland or similar movements in the history of human conflict. Of course you have the military might to erase Gaza in its entirety from the map, and also South Lebanon. But what price will you pay if you go ahead with such a lunatic act?
The ceiling of your achievements in Gaza will be similar to what you achieved in your last war on Lebanon: Going into a losing battle, alienating international opinion against you, and driving the Arab and Islamic Street to more radicalism and extremism. The bloody scene you created in Gaza is very serious and reflects only a strategic lack of direction that could destabilize regional security as a whole, in addition to destabilizing the neighborhood countries that have established peace with you like Egypt and Jordan and embarrassing and confusing their leaders. As I have mentioned in two previous articles, the Israeli military escalation against Gaza does not lay siege to Gaza alone but to all the moderate Arabs who still have hope that peace will prevail in the area and that the page of war will be closed.
Mr. Haniyeh, Mr. Olmert, the ceiling of the present crisis in Gaza is known and clear from various perspectives. Victory is unattainable for either one of you. Neither will attain his strategic objectives, whether in the short or foreseeable term.