Friday, July 18, 2014

Why Hamas Said No to Egypt's Sisi

Khaled Abu Toameh

Hamas is probably interested in a cease fire, but not one that would bolster the standing of Sisi. Hamas is now aiming to replace Egypt with Qatar and Turkey. It now remains to be seen whether Qatar and Turkey will be able to save Hamas.
Hamas's rejection of Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire with Israel did not come as a surprise to many Palestinians.
On Wednesday, Hamas announced that it had officially informed the Egyptians of its opposition to the cease-fire proposal, which had been issued by the Egyptian authorities 48 hours earlier.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas was opposed to any cease-fire that "does not meet, from the outset, the conditions of the resistance groups."
One of the reasons that Hamas rejected the proposal, Abu Zuhri said, was because the Egyptians did not consult with the Islamist movement before announcing it.
Hamas's conditions included the reopening of all border crossings and the lifting of the blockade that was imposed on the Gaza Strip seven years ago.
But Hamas's rejection of the Egyptian cease-fire plan should be seen in the context of its strained relations with the regime of President Abdel Fattah Sisi.

Sisi's cease-fire proposal is not much different than that presented by deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in November 2012.
Then, Hamas accepted Morsi's proposal, entitled "Special Understandings For Cease-fire In Gaza."
Sisi's plan, rejected by Hamas, is entitled "The Egyptian Initiative For Cease-fire In Gaza."
Both plans called for a cessation of fighting between Israel and Hamas, and for the reopening of the border crossings for passengers and goods.
The main difference between the two plans was an invitation from Sisi to Israel and Hamas to hold separate talks in Cairo to "complete discussions about consolidating the cease-fire and pursuing confidence-building measures between the two parties."
Back then, Hamas had no problem accepting a cease-fire engineered by a Muslim Brotherhood president, who considered the movement a close friend and ally of Egypt.
But Hamas views Sisi as an enemy -- that is why its leaders are not prepared to accept anything he offers, even in the form of a cease-fire that is aimed at saving the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
By rejecting the cease-fire, Hamas has shown that it prefers Israel's bombs to Sisi's offer. For Hamas, Sisi represents a hostile regime that has declared war on the movement and its Muslim Brotherhood allies in Egypt.
Hamas holds Sisi responsible for tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed and destroying hundreds of smuggling tunnels along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
The last thing Hamas wants is to award Sisi -- and enhance his standing in the regional and international arena -- by accepting cease-fire "initiative" from him.
Similarly, Hamas does not want Abbas to play any role in a cease-fire agreement lest that strengthen his standing as the representative of all Palestinians.
Statements by Hamas leaders over the past week have been extremely critical of Abbas's stance regarding the war with Israel. Top Hamas officials have gone as far as condemning Abbas for conspiring with Israel and Egypt to eliminate the Islamist movement and end its control over the Gaza Strip.
A sign of growing tensions between Hamas and Abbas was provided on Tuesday when the Palestinian Health Minister, Jawad Awwad, tried to visit the Gaza Strip.
As soon as Awwad entered the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing, Hamas supporters pelted his vehicle with stones, eggs and shoes, forcing him to flee the area.
The Palestinian Authority [PA] later issued a strong condemnation of the assault, holding Hamas "elements" responsible.
Palestinian Authority Health Minister Jawad Awwad is attacked by a mob upon exiting his official vehicle on a visit to Gaza.
Hamas leaders complained this week that President Sisi did not even bother to consult with them before drafting his cease-fire proposal. "We heard about the cease-fire proposal through the media," said a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.
The official claimed that Sisi chose to negotiate with Israel and PA President Mahmoud Abbas instead of with Hamas and the other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is also suspicious of Sisi's true intentions. Leaders of the movement are convinced that the Egyptian president's ultimate goal is to disarm the movement and other terror groups and hand the Gaza Strip back to Abbas's PA.
Some Palestinians believe that Qatar and Turkey exerted pressure on Hamas to reject Sisi's cease-fire plan. Relations between the two countries and Egypt have deteriorated as a result of their continued support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Hamas is probably interested in a cease-fire, but not one that would bolster the standing of Sisi. This war is not only between Hamas and Israel. It is also a war also between Hamas and Sisi's Egypt.
Hamas is demanding that Israel halt its "aggression" on the Gaza Strip. But its main demand is that the Egyptians end their blockade on the Gaza Strip and reopen the Rafah border crossing.
Hamas is also demanding that the Egyptians stop their security measures against the Islamist movement and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, including travel restrictions and the destruction of smuggling tunnels.
Hamas is now seeking to replace Egypt with Qatar and Turkey. The movement is determined to deny Sisi the "honor" of assuming a major role in solving the current crisis. So far, Hamas appears to have been successful in its effort to marginalize Sisi. It now remains to be seen whether Qatar and Turkey will be able to save Hamas.

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