September 05, 2003

It seems Hamas is running scared.

Ha'aretz reports that Hamas leaders are being rebuffed in their efforts to stop the Israeli campaign against them, and consequently have been forced to take a much lower profile than that to which they have become accustomed.

Over the last few days, Hamas leaders have sent messages to both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt in an effort to revive the cease-fire. The answers they have received sound almost like Israel's demands: First they must agree to disarm, and then it will be time to talk about a cease-fire.

If Egypt is telling them to disarm, there is hope. The toothless PA doesn't hold any imperative over Hamas, but the Egyptians have considerable influence.

Journalists have been having trouble finding senior Hamas officials over the last few days. Abdel Aziz Rantisi and his colleagues are not only reluctant to come to television studios in Gaza, they are even cutting down sharply on their use of the telephone. But beyond the real fear for their lives that Hamas members at every level are feeling (a fear that Israel is encouraging through repeated declarations by Ya'alon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz about their intention to continue the assassination policy), the organization is facing a serious dilemma. The problem with the Jerusalem attack, from Hamas's viewpoint, is that it was too successful. The large number of people killed, and the large number of children among them, aroused American and European anger at the organization (Europe is even considering declaring its "political" wing a terrorist organization) and provided a rare moment of international legitimacy for Israel's forceful response. The question is, what will happen if Hamas's retaliation is similarly "successful" - and if, once again, the gain proves to be not worth the cost?

For more on the EU deliberation on the subject, refer to this story (also from Ha'aretz), which mentions that only three countries (Ireland, Austria, and Greece) have openly opposed the move to declare Hamas a terrorist group. Five countries (Italy, Britain, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) support the change. France, of course, is waffling, since it is caught in the bind; supporting Germany would mean that they also support the US position, which is anathema to them.

(Links courtesy of Common Sense and Wonder and Shark Blog.)

posted on September 05, 2003 07:35 AM


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