At the beginning of this month, Hamas ceded its control over much of the civilian governance of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In doing so, argues Haviv Rettig Gur, Hamas has relinquished the task of being a terrorist group that also governs territory so as to refocus on its primary mission: violence. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas has reached a point where his strategy of curbing terror while trying to organize international pressure on Israel has not borne fruit. Gur writes:
Among Palestinians, the violent “resistance” is no mere tactic employed by a small handful of extremists. It is a fundamental pillar of their narrative of national liberation, a vehicle for reclaiming the dignity lost by their history of dispossession, a crucible that for many lends the sheen of redemptive theology to their long suffering. . . .
Abbas . . . cannot pursue the violent strategy he watched fail so spectacularly [under Yasir Arafat], nor can he acknowledge the flaw at the heart of his diplomatic strategy—the sad fact that Israelis who could not be frightened off by waves of suicide terrorism are not likely to be dislodged by waves of international tut-tutting. Worse, the trap is permanent. Israeli recalcitrance is shored up against foreign pressure by the very expectation of more waves of terrorism. The one Palestinian strategy fatally undermines the other. . . .
In the unity deal struck between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority last month, Abbas effectively swallowed into his PA . . . the very architects of [the Palestinians’] defeat, the party most responsible for the hardening of Israeli politics against Palestinian aspirations.
And, as might be expected, he has done so without any capacity to control what Hamas does or says in Palestine’s name. Hamas, after all, seems eager to surrender every instrument of sovereignty it possesses in Gaza—except the one that matters: its armed wing will remain intact, and under its control.
This was not Hamas’s “red line,” as some commentators suggested, implying that Hamas was being magnanimous with its other concessions. It was the original point and purpose of the entire exercise of reconciliation. Hamas could not give up its military wing because it was in the process of becoming its military wing, shorn of the extraneous trappings of civil politics. . . .