In case you'd forgotten, here's a small reminder from Hamas: It exists.
Ever since the peace talks between Israel and the PA began and gained speed, Hamas has been quieted down, pushed away from the table, and therefore pushed aside from our minds. However, Hamas is still there, ruthlessly controlling the Gaza strip and its 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants, and it's not just going to step back and give its power away. On the contrary, it seems Hamas has been out of the spotlight for a bit too long, and now it's stepping in from the shadows of the backstage, a bit more every day.
Yes, we've seen the occasional rocket firing from Gaza in the past months, but that has only yielded a tired yawn of a retaliation. Israel has been patient, and that means Hamas hasn't gotten enough recognition for months. So now what? It either needed to start firing more aggressively, risking a severe armed confrontation with Israeli forces, or to start making headlines some other way. For now, it chose the latter.
Last week, Hamas demanded to block the UN suggested textbooks for schools in Gaza. Why? They deal with human rights, which are not exactly Hamas' cup of tea. Freedom of speech? Equality for women? Freedom of religion? According to Hamas, these are not the educational values that are good for the Gazan children to learn. Especially not the textbooks' mild attitude towards building a new state, which is just too "peaceful," in their words.
But that didn't quite do the job, so the next day the Hamas spokesman stated that the movement doesn't agree to the NATO peaceful forces suggested by Kerry, in order to make sure security issues are solved. If that wasn't clear enough, Haniya stepped up himself to declare that Abbas doesn't represent Hamas or its aspirations in any way.
Hamas wants to fight. Terror is its foundation, and without fighting, it loses its edge. The only way it has known to achieve power until today was violence, not only toward Israel but toward Palestinians in Gaza as well.
Egypt has recently washed its hands from the Hamas regime, and funds have dwindled. It's not a big surprise. The funds were used for the purchase of arms, and not for building anything with peaceful purposes, God forbid. The sad truth is that the more the peace talks materialize, the bigger the threat on Hamas.
So Hamas has raised its head. Maybe that means we need to start asking some questions that have been conveniently avoided up until now: Is Abbas capable of signing an agreement with Israel, and then actually standing behind its realization? How will he manage to cope with Hamas, which has a different agenda than him? And how will other Arab countries in the region contribute to the impossible relationship between the relatively moderate PLO, and this terrorist regime?
Any agreement between Israelis and Palestinians has to be a final one that ends the conflict. The Hamas issue has to be dealt with now, and it's important to hear it from the pro-Palestinian side as well. The Palestinians themselves have been very careful not to upset Hamas, and for a good reason. Anyone who speaks against this regime is tagged as a traitor and then tortured or executed, and not many are willing to pay this price for the chance to speak their minds.
Still, not all Palestinians and certainly not all their supporters live in Gaza under fear of terror, and it's time to speak up. It's time for Palestinians to decide what kind of leadership they want building their new state. After all, Hamas was voted to lead Gaza in 2005. It's been a long and bloody eight years, and definitely time to decide if it was a wise choice, or if it's wiser to stick with the more moderate leadership, because violence and terror will not really get the Palestinian people the state they want.
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