Hamas is in trouble these days – politically and economically – and their situation is increasingly difficult as the siege on the Gaza Strip is tightened, largely by the Egyptian military junta, writes Abdelbari Atwan.
The Egyptian army closed the Rafah crossing completely for several days, allowing passage only for humanitarian reasons, destroying the Strip’s regular economy.
Egypt has also set up a buffer zone on the border with Gaza to put a stop to the smuggling of goods and people, destroying the Strip’s black market economy. In addition, the Egyptian media has launched a campaign against Hamas, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” in Sinai which has targeted Egyptian soldiers.
Hamas has made efforts to better its relationship with Egypt’s military rulers. It has asked Imams not to criticize the Egyptian regime or its leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; it has stopped all demonstrations in support of the Muslim Brotherhood; it has encouraged Dr Moussa Abu Marzouk, a leading figure in the movement, to appear on Egyptian television stations praising “Team Sisi,” and the efforts of the Egyptian army to fight terrorism in the Sinai; he has also written articles in the Egyptian press, asserting that Hamas will not interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt.
All of these attempts have fallen on deaf ears. There has been no improvement in relations, and more dangerously for Hamas, a new rebel movement has emerged in the Gaza Strip similar to the Tamarod movement in Egypt. It was set up with financial help from the Egyptian army and the Gulf. The new Gazan Tamarod movement has been able to exploit the worsening situation in the strip and the suffering of its children to recruit large numbers of young people to its ranks.
There is freely available documentary evidence that the military regime in Egypt supports the overthrow of the Hamas government because it sees it as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas was supportive to President Mohamed Morsi during his tenure, which did not last more than a year before he was overthrown by the military coup led by “Team Sisi.”
The question is: who would rule Gaza if Hamas is ousted? President Mahmoud Abbas and his authority in Ramallah? Or Colonel Mohammed Dahlan, who was one of the big supporters of the Egyptian opposition and rebel movement to oust President Morsi?
Hamas is also on the verge of bankrupcy having lost about $15 million worth of trade.
The movement’s leadership committed several fatal blunders in the past two years which have led it into this dangerous impasse that it may no be able to emerge from for years to come – if it succeeds in holding on to power.
The biggest error was when it laid all its eggs all the Muslim Brotherhood’s basket in Egypt. Hamas forgot that it is a resistance movement, and must remain open to everyone.
A second error was made over the Syrian crisis. Hamas stated it was morally obliged to side with the opposition given the regime’s violence and murder of more than 100,000 of its sons. It is true that this is morally repugnant, but the same regime under Assad senior, committed the massacre of Hama in which 20,000 Muslim Brotherhood members and their families were slaughtered. That was in the 1980s and did not prevent Hamas then from pitching its tent in the heart of Damascus at a time when most other Arab capitals had rejected it.
As a result of its outspokenness, Hamas has severed its ties with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, the axis that gave it arms, training and financial support to confront Israel, gaining nothing in exchange since the Gulf Arabs are not interested and now Egypt is ruled by “Team Sisi.”
Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, is currently holed up in Doha and has not appeared on any television station, including Al-Jazeera. This seems to me a political and strategic miscalculation.
Hamas needs to launch an in-depth critical review of its policies and leadership. The sons of Gaza cannot endure the current situation for much longer, where there is no reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, no resistance, no money and no friends.