Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas--Not Your Father's Hizbollah

(Note: In addition to Israellycool, Jameel at Muquata is also liveblogging.)

No, not nearly...

Hamas--Still Small Time Terrorists

Hamas has been showing signs of being a Hizbollah wannabee:

Hizbollah kidnaps Israeli soldiers--Hamas kidnaps Gilad Shalit.
Hizbollah builds extensive underground bunkers--Hamas follows suit.
Hizbollah bombed Israel during its war--Hamas figures it can bomb Israel forever.

Hamas appears to have miscalculated. Israel's constant threat to retaliate, which it never follow convincingly followed up on, suddenly became a tactic that lulled Hamas into a false sense of security.

Unlike Hizbollah, whose kidnapping of Israeli soldiers was followed soon after by the Israeli counter attack, Hamas used the latest truce as a time to regroup--not realizing that this afforded Israel the same opportunity.

Sure, both Hamas and Hizbollah are funded by Iran--but Hizbollah is in the big time, having killed hundreds of American soldiers and lived to tell the story. Hizbollah has not only the support of Iran, but of Syria as well. Hamas, on the other hand, has been nothing but annoying to their closest neighbor, Egypt--especially after the incident of tearing down the barrier and allowing a flood of Gazans into their country.

Hamas Has No Friends

Actually, it's not clear that there is any Arab country that is particularly fond of Hamas--just as Palestinians in general do have many friends in the Arab world.

Over a week ago, Dan Diker, a foreign policy analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, posted at Powerline about how much Arab countries wanted Israel to teach Hamas a lesson:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed his concern to the Arab press that "Egypt shares a border with Iran following Hamas' May 2008 rocket assault on the Israeli city of Ashkelon with Iranian manufactured grad rockets.

Earlier this month Egyptian Foreign Minister Egypt's Ahmed Abul Gheit warned that Cairo would never accept an "Islamic emirate" in Gaza -- a key stated goal of Hamas. Mohammad Abdallah Al Zulfa, member of The Saudi Shoura Council said yesterday on the Arab network's Alhurra news program that "Iran is the big threat in today's world, supporting all the terrorists from Hamas to Hezbollah to some other terrorists that we don't know their names yet". "Iran destabilized the region by supporting all the illegal activities and activists such as Hamas...."

Not All Of The Arab Outcry Is Against Israel

Now that Israel is carrying out its operation against Hamas, the universal condemnation usually expected from the Arab world is just not there. The Jerusalem Post reports on the reaction from Abbas:

"We spoke to them and told them 'Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,'" Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don't want it to be destroyed."

Hamas could have prevented the "massacre" in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday in Cairo.

Not that one would necessarily expect much sympathy from Abbas.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, mentioned above by Diker, did not hide how he felt about Hamas either:

Aboul Gheit also attacked Hamas, saying the group had prevented people wounded in the Israeli offensive from passing into Egypt to receive medical attention.

"We are waiting for the wounded Palestinians to reach Egypt. They aren't being allowed to go through," he said.

Asked who was to blame for the dire situation in Gaza, the foreign minister replied: "Ask the party that controls Gaza."

This Time, Egypt Is Ready To Stop The Flood Of Gazans

But just because Gheit is offering to allow the Palestinian wounded in apparently does not mean that he wants a repeat of the flood of Palestinians like last time. This time around, Egypt seems to be ready--and intent on keeping Palestinians out:

Egyptian border guards have opened fire on Palestinians who breached the border to escape Israel's assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian security official said there were at least five breaches along the nine-mile border and hundreds of Palestinian residents were pouring in.

At least 300 Egyptian border guards have been rushed to the area to reseal the border, the official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

A resident of the Gaza Strip side of the border, Fida Kishta, said that Egyptian border guards opened fire to drive back the Palestinians.

...Dr Abdel Qader Higazi, a representative of the Egyptian Doctor's Syndicate in Rafah said Egyptian authorities closed the border crossing after allowing several trucks of medical supplies into Gaza.

Who Does Stand Beside Hamas?

True--Iran, Syria, and Hizbollah spoke out against Israel and about the need for Arabs to come to the aid of Hamas. That is to be expected--especially since if Israel can really pull off a significant decrease in Hamas' effectiveness, it could be seen as a warning to those 3 in particular while reassuring the other Arab countries that Iran can be stopped.

Hitting Hamas As A Way Of Striking Back At Iran

So it comes as no surprise that in another post for Powerline, Dan Diker wrote that Saudi Arabia also has not come out in support of Hamas. Instead, the Saudis made it very plain how they feel about the Iranian threat and the proxies Iran is using:
Mohammad Abdallah Al Zulfa, member of the Saudi Shoura Council said on the Alhurra Arabic TV news program on December 17 that "Iran is the big threat in today's world, supporting all the terrorists from Hamas to Hezbollah to some other terrorists that we don't know their names yet" and "Iran destabilized the region by supporting all the illegal activities and activists such as Hamas."
A Great Opportunity

If Israel can really pull this off--pulling Hamas down a few pegs--it may have the larger effect of taking Iran down a notch as well. It may also give reason to Nasrallah, who already hides in a bunker, reason to be cautious about what he says and does.

Israel had a tremendous opportunity in its war against Hizbollah--and was unable to capitalize on it. A lot is riding on what Israel is doing now against Hamas.

And so far, it seems to be working.

Check out memeorandum for examples of (predictable) reaction to Israel's counter-attack on Gaza.

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