Middle East — 06 September 2006

The Hamas led government has faced international pressure from day one, resulting in an international boycott in particular the refusal of international donors to supply much needed capital and the Israeli refusal to hand over Palestinian tax revenues collected from Eastern Jerusalem. This predicament has led to political infighting in the Palestinian Territories and numerous strikes being staged by workers demanding their wages. This pressure, in addition to the Gaza siege being imposed by the Israeli’s has led the Hamas government to yield to the pressure and move to accept a unity government with Fatah. Mahmoud Abbas has declared that a unity government should be formed within a period of 10 days, allowing governance to proceed in the Palestinian Territories. This level of flexibility from Hamas was expected for a number of reasons.

First, Hamas has a history of demonstrating flexibility; it’s change in policy from calling for the end of total occupation to the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.

Second, Hamas had previously stated that it would not participate in elections enshrined by the Oslo Accords of 1993, but changed its policy and participated in municipal elections, leading to its participation in national elections.

Third, Hamas had refused to acknowledge the Oslo agreement but its participation in the national elections and its taking over of the Palestinian Authorities (PA) was a clear change in policy as the PA was a product of the Oslo Agreement.

Fourth, Hamas, had previously stated its desire not to negotiate and discuss with the Israeli government but clearly by leading the PA it must negotiate with Israel, thus implicit recognition of the State of Israel.

Therefore from the above, flexibility is obvious in the policy of Hamas and it is this flexibility, which has been understood fully by the US, Israel and Fatah. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before Hamas would yield to pressure and accept what was demanded from them. The ‘Prisoners Document’ including articles acknowledging the State of Israel and accepting a 2 state solution- if accepted would be another clear example of Hamas flexibility. There have been signs of acceptance of the document, although the Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri has dismissed this and Mahmoud Abbas has given Hamas a week to make its views clear on the document. With the internal situation deteriorating and more pressure being imposed on Hamas, there is no doubt that flexibility will be shown by Hamas. Therefore Hamas, would be following the path trodden by the PLO, one of compromises. This is a very dangerous predicament for Hamas as it could lose face in Palestine and the wider Muslim world, but may be it will be able to sell any acceptance of the prisoner’s document to the Palestinian people on the back of removing its international boycott and improving the economic situation. However, the experience of Hamas has indicated once again, that anyone who takes the hot seat in Palestine is bound to be flexible or made to be flexible as Palestine is under occupation and the occupiers and those connected (i.e. the US) pull the strings of the political happenings and agenda in terms of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

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