Er lijkt onenigheid te zijn binnen Hamas over de vraag of het staakt-het-vuren moet worden verlengd of niet. Hoewel er van een echt staakt-het-vuren eigenlijk sowieso geen sprake meer is, is het aantal raketten en mortiergranaten stukken lager dan voor het staakt-het-vuren in juni werd ingesteld.
De Hamas rally afgelopen zondag, waarbij een fake Israelische soldaat smeekte om zijn vader en moeder te mogen zien en werd vernederd, komt niet over als een gebaar van goede wil. Tegelijkertijd beseft Hamas in Gaza dat de enige manier om de grenzen open te krijgen een nieuw staakt-het-vuren is.
Last update - 03:00 15/12/2008
ANALYSIS / Who wants to end the Hamas-Israel ceasefire?
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
Israel and Hamas on Monday ratcheted up their public statements ahead of the critical date of Friday, December 19 when the six-month old cease-fire is set to expire. In Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal threatened that calm would end this week. At the huge Hamas rally in Gaza on Sunday, the crowds saw a Hamas activist dressed as kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her Austrian counterpart that Israel could not leave Gaza to Hamas rule.
Rather than clarifying things, the deluge of declarations clouds them. While Meshal threatened in Damascus, Hamas leaders in Gaza said things had not yet been decided. Ambiguity serves Hamas at this point, especially with Israel announcing far and wide that it wants to continue the cease-fire. That is the message emissary Amos Gilad brought to Cairo on Sunday, and that is in fact what Livni is saying, after the threats.
After Meshal announced on Sunday that the cease-fire agreement would not be renewed, Gaza Hamas leader Ayman Taha said Meshal's statements did not obligate the organization.
Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas government head in the Gaza Strip, delivered an ambiguous message of his own. In the evening, Meshal announced in interviews from Damascus that the calm had indeed ended but immediately hedged: Hamas would respond to Israeli action (that is, it would not be the one to break the cease-fire).
The Israeli defense establishment said on Sunday that the contradictory statements reflect real disagreement in Hamas and a battle for hegemony. Meshal and senior leaders of the military wing in Gaza, headed by Ahmed Jabri, lean toward a breaking of the cease-fire; Haniyeh and the political wing in Gaza disagree. But even the position of the hawks is not carved in stone. Even they are jockeying for a better position, to ease the economic embargo on Gaza, while at the same time increasing actions along the fence and firing rockets at the Negev without Israel responding.
Who will decide? Since Israel assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in the winter of 2004, Hamas has no single boss. Decisions are made by committee and tug-of-war among the various factions. Hamas has agreed to a few cease-fires over the years, sometimes over Meshal's objections.
The proud and militant tone at the Gaza rally on Sunday cannot cover up the fact that Hamas is under some pressure now. Despite their public statements, Haniyeh and Meshal know that Israel will not expand the cease-fire to the West Bank, and ordinary people are still suffering greatly every day in Gaza.
Livni said on Sunday, "There is no calm that includes shooting at us," and that every time fire comes from Gaza, it will call forth an Israeli response. An impressive declaration, but for the unfortunate fact that Sderot and its environs have been drawing fire for more than a month and the army has not been allowed to respond.
Amos Gilad toed that same official line on Sunday when he came back from talks in Cairo, where he heard Egyptian agreement to Israel's interpretation that the cease-fire is not limited to a six-month trial, as Hamas would have it.
But both Cairo and Jerusalem know that the key lies in Gaza. Hamas will decide whether the cease-fire persists or breaks down. On Sunday, by the way, saw a relatively low dose of rocket fire - one Qassam and three mortars, with no injuries. The Israel Defense Force believes some of the fire is directed on purpose at open spaces to avoid injuries, while keeping the pressure on Israel.
Meanwhile, Hamas marked the 21st anniversary of its establishment by Yassin and a group of students, with a 200,000-strong rally, according to Gaza reporters. The high point was particularly repulsive, even for Hamas ceremonies. Reenacting bus bombings has apparently gone out of fashion, but Hamas found a replacement: a man dressed in an IDF uniform in the role of Gilad Shalit missing his mother and father (in Hebrew).
Haniyeh and his aides watched this miserable performance from the grandstand. From the television pictures they appeared undeservedly smug. After all, they have not returned even one Palestinian prisoner to his parents, two and a half years after Shalit's abduction, while the PA has received more than 900 prisoners from Israel in that time.
The rally shows there is apparently nothing much to the hope of quite a few people in Israel and the West that Hamas is going to change its spots. Even now, Hamas continues promising that Palestinian refugees will return to the homes they lost in 1948, and that the war will go on until Israel is destroyed. The Shalit element in the rally shows Hamas cannot offer its supporters much except a good place in the next world.