THE BLOG
03/07/2014 02:35 pm ET Updated May 07, 2014

Egypt Bans Hamas -- Possible Scenarios

It was in the making for quite some time, and now it is official. Egypt declared Hamas a terrorist organization and outlawed its activities in the country. The terror organization, for its part, retaliated by objecting to any more Egyptian involvement in negotiations between them and Fatah over internal Palestinian rapprochement, and by organizing "spontaneous" demonstrations outside the Egyptian offices in Gaza. No need for any wild gamble here, the Egyptian generals are not unduly impressed with these manifestations of protest...

If General Al-Sisi and his colleagues needed any more proof that Hamas, as well as the other Islamist organizations in Gaza, are up to very bad things, they got it with the Israeli seizure of the Iranian ship carrying medium-range missiles to Gaza. The Egyptian generals, not a group of beginners in Middle East politics, know full well that what is supposed to be aimed at the "Zionists" can very easily be aimed at them, in the Sinai desert.

The ban on Hamas should not come as a surprise to those who know that the Palestinian terror organization has always prided itself for being the Palestinian section of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB], and as such as an enemy of Egypt, surely of its current leadership.

Then, of course, there are more implications and lessons to be drawn from this event, which has the potential, though not the certainty, of becoming a seminal event.

First, the Egyptian act verifies what was the Israeli line all along about Hamas, it being a terror organization, never mind the pretension to claim legitimacy by being "elected." Egypt just says in public what other Arab countries may be saying behind closed doors, and possibly will also say out loud in the near future. There cannot be "good" and "bad" terrorists; the former are those who act against Israel, whereas the latter are those who act against fellow Arabs. Terrorists are terrorists.

More importantly, the Egyptian act coming as it is in the aftermath of the Arab Spring is providing us with another indication that the volcanic eruption of the last three years was about the Arab situation, not about Israel and the conflict with her. The Egyptian generals were not so much concerned about terror attacks on Israel, as much as they were about Gaza becoming a zone of aggression against Egypt itself, in support of the MB attempt to turn Egypt into an Islamic Republic.

Yet, their retaliation could still prove significant in the context of the overall Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The rule of Hamas in Gaza seemed almost impregnable until recently, when the seeds of internal opposition, the Gaza version of the Tamarud movement [they borrowed the name from the Egyptian movement which rose against Mubarrak and later the MB] surfaced alongside the Egyptian pressure from the outside. Is it the moment where Hamas rule in Gaza is facing an existential challenge? Not yet, but it may be the moment where this challenge should emerge. That requires a joint, though not necessarily a publicly declared, Egyptian-Saudi-Israeli and Palestinian Authority [PA] effort to undermine Hamas, and bring their rule in Gaza to an end, while enjoying tacit Jordanian support.

Hamas in Gaza is an obstacle to regional stability, due to its connections with Iran, which is still THE greatest threat to Middle East stability -- it is a danger to the Egyptian regime which is committed to this stability, and it is an obstacle to any possible successful conclusion of the current PA-Israel talks, though not the only or necessarily the most important one. While the talk of the town is about a "two state solution," the Hamas state in Gaza means that potentially there will be three states. Surely one too many....

A pie in the sky? Possibly, but not necessarily. There are some conditions to be met so that the scenario envisaged above could be fulfilled. First, an American realization that there is a prospect, a new opportunity, one which should get temporary precedence over the futile Kerry-mediated Abbas-Netanyahu dialogue of the deaf.

Here is an opportunity to create a genuine PA-Israeli interest, one which IF materialized would be a huge positive contribution to the stalled PA-Israel talks.

Second, the Saudis should do their bit and prop up the Egyptians and PA financially in order to give them another incentive to go all out against Hamas. Thirdly, Israel should realize that its more important interest, both short and long-term, is to see Hamas out, and Fatah in Gaza. It is called prioritization, and it requires some concessions to Abbas in the current talks. For example, a generous, unconditional release of Palestinian prisoners.

Abbas will have to share in the general effort, though, for obvious reasons, more in the background, rather than in the forefront, and start to activate his supporters in Gaza against Hamas, and he has many more than what Hamas propaganda would have us believe.

All this should happen, could happen, and if I have to bet on, is very IFFY, though not impossible. What is obvious beyond doubt is that the BDS movement will continue to go after the Israeli "siege" of Gaza, but then no surprises, as they are not for the Palestinians, they are ONLY against Israel's very existence.