HAMAS & EGYPT: CHANGE? MORE OF THE SAME?

With the roar of rockets quieted, what’s going on in the Middle East? The Gaza crowds celebrating an artificial truce have gone home and the noise of guns has been displaced by the usual market place clatter. But what’s the story behind the story?

Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ second in command, said that Hamas would not stop arming itself because only force can bring Israel to the negotiating table. Of course, Israel refuses to recognize Hamas because they are a terrorist group. The complication is that Hamas totally controls Gaza while the Palestinian Authority is left with the West Bank. In other words, a divided front claims Palestine but no one can say with certainty who speaks for this group. However, Abu Marzouk’s statements indicate that Hamas has learned nothing from the three day shoot out that left Gaza City in a serious condition.

Israel insists that any easing of the blockade will depend on Hamas’ willingness to stop smuggling and producing weapons. Because Hamas’ founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel, any threat must be taken seriously. They have also claimed to be manufacturing rockets inside Gaza. Because the Iranian made Fajr-5-rockets came close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, this problem will be given serious study. Possibly three days of war has changed nothing except to force the Palestinians to stop firing rockets for the moment. No one believes this concession will last.

Where are we now? Back to the status quo?

Matters in Egypt seem to be getting worse by the day. On Saturday, Egyptian judges and prosecutors struck back against President Morsi’s degree to supersede all legal restraints. The stock market went to the bottom and protestors again filled Tahrir Square. Rioting broke out and demonstrators were on the march.

At stake is an expected December 2 ruling by judicial review to disband the constitutional assembly. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are attempting to sidestep that possibility by declaring the president above all constitutional powers. The procedure has backfired. A council overseeing the judiciary called Morsi’s decree “an unprecedented attack” on its authority. If Morsi thought his quick maneuver would succeed, he obviously misread the Egyptian public.

Mohamed Morsi’s election was only by the thinnest margin. At least half of Egyptian did not want the Brotherhood in the driver’s seat. This conflict will only bring his opponents back in force. Unless Morsi makes a serious retreat, Egypt could well explode again.

The end result? The status quo would only be re-enforced.

What happens next? Former  chief of Mossad Efraim Halevy sees only three alternatives in Gaza: destroy Hamas and possibly  invite even more radical groups to take over; occupy Gaza; attempt to reduce the hostile environment by preventing the influx of new weapons while allowing Hamas to increase its civilian political role. The last idea would be a victory for Hamas because Israel doesn’t now recognize them.

With the American elections concluded, Israel has a number of important issues to ponder. Palestinian leader Abbas will go back to the United Nations seeking formal recognition, but how can he seriously do so when he doesn’t control any of Gaza?

The status quo remains. Israel may have to determine which way the future unfolds.

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel, middle east

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