Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Hamas has to gain from Egypt, and why this may be about the Palestinians after all

In 2007, after Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip, American political scientist and founder of STRATFor, a geopolitical forecasting company, George Friedman, wrote the following:
Hamas’ long-term strategy — indeed, the only hope of the Palestinians who not prepared to accept a compromise with Israel — is for Egypt to change its tune toward Israel, which could very well involve energizing Islamist forces in Egypt and bringing about the fall of the Mubarak regime. That is the key to any solution for Hamas....
If an Islamist rising occurred in Egypt and a regime was installed that could energize the Egyptian public against Israel, then that would reflect a strategic threat to the survival of the Israeli state....
[W]ith or without the West Bank, Hamas has the potential — not the certainty, just the potential — to reach west along the Mediterranean coast and influence events in Egypt. And that is the key for Hamas.
(quoted from Friedman, 'The Geopolitics of the Palestinians', STRATFOR, June 19, 2007)
According to Friedman's analysis, Hamas' deadlock in its struggle with Israel requires it to reach out to radical forces in neighboring countries, first of all Egypt, and create a regional environment more hostile to Israel.

In light of Friedman's remarks, we must consider whether Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood forces are behind current events in Gaza, or at the very least, whether they will take advantage of the current chaos in order to establish an Islamist Egypt, which could serve as an ally for Hamas in its struggle against Israel and beyond.

Already, we can note effects of the Egyptian uprising on the Gaza strip, although so far these are being portrayed in the press as marginal. Today, the Israeli air force bombed a suspected weapons smuggling tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border after rockets showered Israel throughout the week. On Monday, the World Net Daily reported that a large quantity of new and sophisticated weapons, possibly antiaircraft missiles, were smuggled from Egypt into Gaza over the weekend.

On Wednesday, Mohammed Assadi and Nidal al-Mughrabi wrote that Palestinians are likely to benefit from regime change in Egypt. According to senior negotiator Nabil Shaath: "The new situation in Egypt could lead to a change in world powers that upsets Israel and forces it to compromise. Egypt will get stronger." Shaath was quick to reassure the Western media: "Some are worried that the Muslim Brotherhood will take charge (but) the Muslim Brotherhood is out of the picture."

Shaath's remarks however are complicated by reports that former US ambassador Frank Wisner met secretly with Issam El-Erian, a senior of the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday. Might there be something here to hide?

On a related note, the New York Times reported that an Egyptian in an online forum called to attack the Arish-Ashkelon gas pipeline, noting 'this is a chance to stop the supply to the Israelites'. One user on a Qaeda web site called on jihadis to join with the Muslim Brotherhood, as both support Islamic revolution.

Around the world, fellow supporters of Israel were quick to use the events in Egypt to prove that Israel is not the reason for unrest in the Middle East. However, understanding the seriousness of Hamas' political goals, and the utility of a pro-Islamist Egypt for Hamas, we must consider the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood are well-prepared for the post-Mubarak era, and that Hamas are their first beneficary.

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