Hamas, Inside and Out

Apart from the debate as to who is the victor, we can soon expect a dispute between Hamas and the PA over division of the spoils.

A thank-you letter transmitted to all the media this week on the Internet did not distinguish between Hebrew and Arabic, Israeli and foreign media. It was a letter from the Hamas leadership, worded in general terms and expressing thanks for the support and assistance of the media that "stood at its side during the struggle," and helped with the victory that led to withdrawal. They were invited this week by the Hamas leadership to participate in a journey of remembrance and victory, which will take place on Monday, to mark the memorial day for the burning of the Al Aqsa Mosque in August 1969 by Michael Rohan.

The invitation combines two historical events into one celebration: the burning of Al Aqsa and "the days of the withdrawal of the Zionist occupation." "This is in order to deepen the connection with our beloved Al Aqsa, and to thank God and rejoice over the withdrawal of the Zionist occupation from our beloved Strip."

In order to mark the two events, the Hamas leadership decided to reveal two "military secrets" as well. The first that the organization has a new missile named Sajil, which has a range of 15 kilometers; and the second "Qassamits" young women who are engaged in combat training. Because after the victory in Gaza, it is time for the military and primarily political war of continuation.

All this is designed to reinforce one truth: Gaza ("our Strip") belongs to Hamas. A survey published on a Web site associated with Hamas announced that over 50 percent of all the Israeli dead were killed by Hamas fire, and this body count is what gives Hamas its right to claim ownership. If not now, certainly in the near future.

3,000 apartments in MoragBecause in the near future, we can expect, first of all, a debate between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority about the way to celebrate the victory. Whereas PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) does in fact confirm the right of the Palestinians to celebrate, but calls for restraint, since the occupation has not yet ended the same is not true of Hamas. Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the leaders of the movement in the Gaza Strip, promised in an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat, published in London, that "we will enter the (evacuated) settlements and will desecrate the honor of Israel with our feet. We will stand on the ruins of the settlements, and tell our people: We have won. We will secure Gaza and we will prevent its reoccupation by anyone who wants."

And there is a practical side as well. "The areas of the settlements have to serve as economic lungs. We have discussed this with the (Palestinian) government, and the future of these lands will be decided by the government to be established after the elections."

Here are three problems that Al-Zahar ignores: Who will administer these lands until the elections? Will Hamas join the government that is established after the elections, which have been set for January 25, 2006? And how will the loot be divided between those who claim the largest number of Jews killed, and those who claim exclusive legitimacy for governing?

These are not problems that can await resolution years from now. Because someone will soon have to decide, for example, about the division of the land and the apartments to be built on what is already known as "Khalifa bin Zaid City."

Emir Khalifa is the son of the late ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Zaid bin Sultan, who donated money for the construction of residential units in Gaza. Now the son is carrying on with his father's activity, and proposes donating funds to build 3,000 residential units on the area of the evacuated settlement of Morag. Will it be a Hamas city or a Fatah city? How will the apartments be distributed? And in general, who will build the project and benefit from the income?

There is no answer yet to any of these questions, and that is the reason for the demand by Hamas to establish a Palestinian national authority to supervise. That is also the reason for the rejection of this demand by Abu Mazen, who has agreed at most to a monitoring committee" in which representatives of Hamas will participate. In any case,there will be no "division of areas" until the Israel Defense Forces withdraws completely and the ruins are cleared away in other words, until late October or early November, according to the plan. And then will begin the bitter political struggle in advance of the elections.

It turns out that the struggle is not only between the PA and Hamas, but within the ranks of Hamas as well, mainly between internal-Hamas and external-Hamas. Between Ismail Haniya and Mahmoud al-Zahar on the one hand, and Musa Abu Marzuk and Khaled Meshal, who are living in Damascus, on the other. This is not an open struggle that is reflected in the organization's public declarations. It has been conducted for the past four and a half years within the ranks of Hamas, between those who actually made the sacrifices and considered themselves fighters on the front, and those who gave orders from a distance.

There is also a dependent relationship between those who took care of funding from outside, and those who used the monies inside the Strip; between those who took care of the organization's foreign relations and conducted negotiations with Egypt and Syria, and those who had to find a place to hide from IDF missiles.

They obey the internal leadershipNow the leadership of external-Hamas will have to decide whether it will remain outside or go to Gaza, thus doing away with the external headquarters, as Arafat did when he went to Gaza, and afterward to the West Bank. Will the local leadership have to be pushed aside to some extent, in order to make room for those coming from outside, and fight on its home turf over the authority to rule?

"Is there a plan for the return of the leaders of external-Hamas to Gaza?" Mohammed al-Zahar was asked. "It depends on them," he replied. "Hamas also has an international dimension, which has to be maintained. Therefore, those who are maintaining the connection have to remain outside." Al Zahar's words imply that internal-Hamas will not be able to conduct international relations from inside the Strip. This assumption is groundless, since from the moment when the border crossings between the Strip and Egypt are transferred to Egyptian hands, there will be nothing to prevent conducting such relations. Khaled Meshal, on the other hand, demands setting up three levels of Palestinian authority "one source on the level of the Strip, a second on the internal Palestinian level, and a third on the internal and foreign level."

By "the level of the Strip" he means that same joint committee whose job it is to monitor the administration of affairs during the course of the IDF withdrawal. By "the internal Palestinian level" Mashal means the next stage, when there are parliamentary elections in which Hamas will participate, and thus there will be a government whose activities Hamas will monitor, even if it does not join. As for the source of authority "on the internal and foreign level," here it is not clear whether he is referring to the fact that the new Palestinian government to be established will have to coordinate its positions with the leadership of external-Hamas, thus bypassing the local Hamas people. Nor is it clear how the members of external-Hamas will acquire legitimacy if they do not participate in the elections. Neither Khaled Meshal nor other Hamas spokesmen are providing answers.

But it is clear from Meshal's statements that for the time being, he does not intend to give up the external headquarters. A Hamas official who was asked to explain Meshal's words agrees that there is a lack of clarity regarding the role of the external leadership after the disengagement, and mainly after the elections.

"We have forces, families, wounded men and fighters who were opposed to the tahadiya [temporary lull] agreement. Some are angry at the external leadership that dictated conditions to those who fought on the ground. You have to remember that during the time of [assassinated Hamas leaders] Sheikh Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, there were harsh disputes between them and the external leadership. Yassin was opposed to the appointment of Meshal as head of the political department and in effect, as head of the organization. Al-Rantisi felt disdain for Meshal. But as long as there was a war against Israel going on, everyone kept quiet. The external leadership also has to remember that without the local leadership, no agreement reached by Mashal, (Musa) Abu Marzuk and others, whether with Egypt or with the PA, could have been implemented. Our fighters obey the local leadership, the heads of the families, friends. During the entire intifada they did not see Meshal, Abu Marzuk or Ibrahim Rosha."

This is the type of discourse that was conducted during the first intifada among the leadership of internal-Fatah. This is also the nature of the resentment of the young leadership of Fatah at the leadership that arrived from the outside and took over the good jobs. In external-Hamas they well understand the dilemma and the nature of the difficulty that the external leadership, most of whose members come from the West Bank rather than Gaza, is likely to present if it comes to Gaza and begins to run things there.

When Meshal was asked whether he intended to come to the West Bank, he replied: "It all depends on the circumstances and the specific arrangements, for example, who will control the border crossings." In effect, everything depends on the degree of legitimacy that this leadership will continue to enjoy. Until then, Meshal can continue to give victory interviews.