Palestinian statehood bid: Why Hamas has stayed on sidelines
Hamas has yet to officially declare its stance on the Palestinian statehood bid, to be launched at the UN this week. If the bid fails, the Islamist movement could expand its power in the West Bank.
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The Islamist movement, which is listed as a terror group by Israel, the US, and the European Union for carrying out suicide attacks on Israelis, is also against the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and believes that the Palestinian cause can only be solved through armed resistance.Skip to next paragraph
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Abbas has said that on Friday he will ask the United Nations to give Palestine full membership as a sovereign state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem along pre-1967 borders.
UN move unlikely to improve daily life
In late July, Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar described the PA's efforts gain state recognition as a political cheat, affirming that his movement is not going to recognize Israel – no matter what price it may have to pay as a result.
Mr. Zahar, a cofounder of Hamas and its top leader in Gaza, said accepting Israel's right to exist would cost millions Palestinians their right to live in historical Palestine.
Youssif Rezqa, political adviser of Hamas Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh, says Palestinians would be making that sacrifice for a largely symbolic initiative that would not improve daily life in the Palestinian territories – and thus it could spell political disaster for the PA.
"This move ... will not produce any positive results on the ground. It might be the last nail in the PA's coffin," says Mr. Rezqa.
In the West Bank, however, Hamas reaction has been totally different. Hamas leader and speaker of the Palestinian parliament Aziz Dwaik announced that he is in favor of the bid and called on Palestinians everywhere to support the Abbas endeavor.
A West Bank takeover?
Even if Hamas leaders could agree in principle on the PA's effort to gain a state, says Mr. Abu Saif, Hamas would rather watch from distance other than back an idea invented by Fayyad.
If the statehood bid fails, whether through pressure from the US and Israel or through other means, Hamas would be well-positioned to capitalize on Abbas's misfortune.
The United States, one of five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, has threatened to block any resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood and withhold the $550 million in foreign aid that it currently gives the PA. Israel has vowed to stop delivering the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, and some Israeli politicians have even suggested annexing parts of the West Bank to Israel.
"Hamas expects the American and Israeli sanctions will weaken the PA politically and financially," says Mr. Okal. "This can give Hamas a good ground to restart its pursuit to take over the West Bank."