Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Will Governing Tame Hamas--Or Destroy It?

Who would have thought that the West would actually get their act together and withhold funding from Hamas? Surely not Hamas. Despite their surprising victory and their reputation for being free from corruption, Hamas is facing problems on a number of fronts.

Lack of money to pay salaries appears to be only the begining of Hamas' problems. The BBC reports that while Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya is attacking the US and EU for their decision, privately he and his ministers are "deeply worried".

With good reason. While some Palestinians put the blame for the aid cuts and the resulting problems on the West, some Palestinians are beginning to blame Hamas:
Abu Hattab, 27, said that if even he eventually gets paid for March, he'll have to give nearly half his paycheck to the neighborhood grocery for last month's expenses and may not have enough left for rent.

If Hamas cannot provide for the Palestinians, it has no business remaining in power, he said.

"It's not simple for Hamas but we want to live, with or without Hamas," Abu Hattab said. "If it gets worse, then we can just say farewell (to Hamas)."

...Amin Makhboul, a clerk with the Palestinian Interior Ministry in the West Bank city of Nablus, said he believes the Palestinian people will throw Hamas out of power if the situation deteriorates further. The ministry doesn't even have office paper due to the lack of funds, Makhboul said.

"We will have a great mess without salaries," Makhboul said. "Hamas won't be able to stay in power more than three or four months like this."
While it is true that Fatah has the reputation for the corruption that created the current mess that Hamas is stuck with, apparently when it came to dealing with the deficits and shortfalls, Fatah had one thing going for it that Hamas will not:
moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of his Fatah Party made the payroll each month, often by borrowing from banks or appealing to foreign donors for more cash. Hamas does not have such an option.
Meanwhile, Hamas does not have control over the other terrorist factions. It cannot prevent missiles being fired from Gaza at Israel, at a time that for the first time, Hamas' fortunes rely on their ability to stop the missiles, not fire them. Moreover, Fatah retains control over security services, including the police.

At the same time, it's not clear how well Hamas will deal with those elements of the government that are under Hamas' control. Another BBC article notes that:
The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says the new Palestinian government has a severe lack of experience. None of its ministers have been in government before and they have taken over ministries packed with officials loyal to the Fatah party.
This of course is a recipe for trouble--if not for an outright civil war, then possibly the overthrow of the Hamas government:
Fatah leaders are planning to topple the new Hamas government through public pressure. The sources said senior Fatah members are planning to recruit armed factions affiliated to Fatah, such as the Al-Aq'sa Martyrs Brigades, as well as impoverished civilians, and organize mass protests against the government.
And if Fatah does not overthrow Hamas, maybe Al Qaeda will--
Analysts believe that, as its fortunes wane in Iraq, Al-Qaeda thinks some form of coup in Gaza or the West Bank could help it increase support across the Middle East, where the fate of the Palestinians is a symbol of the wider Arab cause.
According to The Counterrorism Blog:

Al Zawahiri's recent message to Hamas encouraging continuing their attack on Israel has been received coldly by some in the Hamas leadership. It seems as though there might be a fracture between the "political wing" and the military wing of Hamas. In fact, Hamas has been criticized by some of its own for running in the elections and implementing a "truce" with Israel.

That's why Al Qaeda is using this perceived weakness to recruit among disenchanted hardcore Hamas members.

So, to sum up, Hamas:

o Cannot get the aid it needs to pay salaries
o There are Palestinians who are willing to kick Hamas out of the government if it cannot get the money needed
o Fatah still controls key areas of the government, such as security
o Fatah wants to oust Hamas
o Hamas cannot stop the firing of missles from Gaza
o There is some friction between the political and military wings of Hamas
o Hamas lacks experience in government
o Al Qaeda is looking to stir up trouble and is attracting members of Hamas

That should keep them busy.

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