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Israeli attack undermines Hamas’ ability to govern

Thursday, January 8, 2009
Israeli attack undermines Hamas’ ability to govern

Hamas has suffered considerable damage and its ability to govern the Gaza Strip has been compromised, according to a lecturer in Middle Eastern politics.

Dr Nigel Parsons, from the politics programme in the School of People, Environment and Planning, says with a ceasefire initiative seemingly making progress, domestic Palestinian politics can be expected to come to the fore.

“International reaction to the civilian causalities incurred by Israel's bombing of a United Nations school in Gaza has hastened the progress of the Franco-Egyptian ceasefire initiative,” he says. “The initiative enjoys the backing of the Arab League, but the realisation of a UN Security Council resolution will require United States acquiescence and an end to the diplomatic cover it has so far afforded the Israeli operation.”

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has indicated that this might be forthcoming, subject to arrangements that preclude the rearming of Hamas, Dr Parsons says.

Hamas, the sole authority in Gaza since a military confrontation with Fatah in June 2007, has suffered considerable damage.

“The movement's capacity to govern the Gaza Strip has been extensively damaged. Territory has been split into cantons by Israeli Defence Force reoccupation. The institutional basis of government has been demolished, including the Hamas-led police force. The Hamas political leadership have been driven underground.”

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Dr Parsons says Hamas has struggled to emulate the experience of Hizbullah in 2006, and as a consequence the movement may lose some kudos.

“The Ramallah-based West Bank Fatah leadership under Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas can be expected to tread carefully,” he says. “Presidential statements in the Palestinian press standing against Hamas' destruction, emphasising national unity, and an explicit call for a resumption of the national unity government, offer one route forward.”

However, Dr Parsons says Fatah's prospects in Gaza remain very uncertain.

“First, the Fatah leadership will be will wary of any suggestion of having benefited from Israeli action against their domestic rival. Second, Hamas has thus far been reluctant to relinquish its hard won political ascendancy. Third, damage to Hamas institutions may have detached political from military echelons, rendering future agreements difficult to police.”

Dr Parsons was in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank last month researching Fatah, the faction of President Abbas. He teaches in the politics programme at the Manawatu campus with courses including Middle Eastern Politics and Israel and the Arab World.


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