Sep 07 2016

Mishaal’s call for smart politics

Published by at 8:36 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

While addressing mourners for the loss of his mother in Jordan, Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal highly praised Jordan and Jordanian officials, and then spoke of a four-step approach to change the balance of power that is currently crushing Palestinians.

Mishaal, who along with Jordanian leaders of Hamas was deported from the Kingdom in 1999, has been allowed to visit for humanitarian family circumstance, such as the death of his father seven years ago and this week the passing of his mother.

At the conclusion of the three-day wake, the Hamas leader said he was speaking as a “free Arab and an open-minded Muslim”.

He called on fellow Palestinians and supporters to make use of all the points of strength they have, spoke forcefully about the need for national unity and reconciliation, and highlighted the need for a national Palestinian strategy.

Mishaal said that such a strategy should not contradict principles, but neither should it handcuff politically those pursuing it, saying that politicians should be clever and shrewd in executing such a national strategy.

But the most interesting point of Mishaal’s speech in Amman came in his concluding point, in his fourth step approach.

“We need to execute a policy that is based on smart politics that uses opportunities not squanders them,” he said in a 20-minute speech that was carried live on Al Jazeera.

It was very refreshing to hear the leader of The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, speak with such cleverness and intelligence. Too bad he decided not to compete for re-election as the head of the Hamas politburo, which will take place before the end of this year.

But then leaders are often the most honest when they are on their way out and no longer trying to speak merely for political consumption.

What would be a smart and yet shrewd Palestinian policy that uses opportunities and does not squander them?

At the level of Palestinian presidency, it is clear that a smart policy does not reject ideas, but at the same time refuses to be part of a photo opportunity to show the world that everything is ok.

This in many ways seems to be what Mahmoud Abbas is doing, as entangled in internal politics as he is, especially regarding the former Fateh leader Mohammad Dahlan.

In recent years, Abbas and the PLO have been unable to improve the balance of forces that weighs so much against Palestinians and their aspirations.

An important question to Mishaal and his Hamas movement:  What are some of the smart policies that can be adopted today to improve the status of Palestinians in Gaza, first, and throughout Palestine?

When pro-Hamas candidates won the 2007 parliamentary elections, they were faced with a dilemma. They could not suddenly recognise Israel and abandon their own charter, but they were pressed by the world community to make some changes so as to be allowed to gain international legitimacy and be able govern properly.

Hamas could have endorsed a governmental policy statement that included the conditions of the international community without contradicting its own principles.

It also could simply have said what every government in the world says once it takes over power, i.e., that it will honour all previous government commitments. 

This would have satisfied the world without having to spell out specific commitments that run against Hamas’ principles. 

It did not, and we have since seen the deepest and most troublesome division in recent history.

Just this week, Hamas interior ministry operatives arrested, harassed and tortured a journalist colleague, Mohammad Othman, in Gaza.

Othman, an investigative journalist, has been researching the status of hospitals and medical care in Gaza, where many questionable administrative and financial decisions are made. 

He was released a day later and has publicly exposed the way he was treated in a Hamas-controlled detention centre.

Hamas’ decision to run for the current municipal elections could be chalked up as a smart political decision.

It probably was forced on it when it realised that the West Bank would have the regular municipal elections every four years anyway. 

Hamas, along with its allies in the Arab world, has been on the defensive ever since president Mohamed Morsi was deposed and Abdel Fattah Al Sisi took over power in Egypt.

Of course, Hamas and Fateh can take the smartest political decision by immediately implementing the reconciliation agreement so that Palestinians can move quickly to presidential and parliamentary elections and end this sad chapter of division that has weakened the Palestinian cause and effort to gain freedom and independence.

Mishaal is right when he says that the balance of forces is crushing Palestinians and there is need for unity, strategy and smart politics.

The sooner leaders start using their heads and not their emotions, the sooner Palestinians will begin the hard process of tipping the balance of forces in their favour.

The world is ready for change in favour of the Palestinians. But it is hard to expect the world to change before Palestinians are united behind a doable strategy and use all the smart and shrewd tactics needed to achieve liberation.


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