CMEP Bulletin: Hamas Celebrates, Causes Concern
weekly CMEP news digest
Hamas’ Meshal visits Gaza
On Friday, December 7, the long-exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, entered Gaza for the first time to celebrate the 25years since Hamas’ founding. Tens of thousands of Gazans showed up to hear him deliver his first speech on Palestinian soil. While the atmosphere in Gaza was jubilant, the occasion made many nervous about the burgeoning power Hamas is acquiring and what this means for peace.
While the official anniversary for Hamas was December 14, officials moved the festivities forward a week to also celebrate Hamas’ “victory” against Israel during the latest round of fighting in November. At least 175 Gazans died during the eight day Israeli offensive aimed at stopping rocket fire eminating from the coastal enclave. Theair strikes resulted in over $300 million in property damage. Meshal’s speech was defiant, insisting, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.”
The New York Times described the content of his speech as reflecting “longstanding Hamas principles rather than new, specific threats toward Israel. But they will only reinforce Israel’s belief that Hamas is its enemy and intends to continue to use military force to reach its goals.” Indeed, after Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu’s weekly cabinet meeting he said, “Yesterday we were re-exposed to our enemies’ true face. They have no intention of compromising with us; they want to destroy the state.”
The speech from Meshal did not strike the same tone that he had been hinting towards in recent months and seems like a step backward for a leader who many thought had been slowly inching closer tomoderation. In recent statements, the leader raised the possibility of a Palestinian state only in the West Bank and Gaza. He also suggested Hamas may move away from armed resistance and towards non-violent popular resistance. This moderation was absent from his speeches in Gaza.
To understand the militant content in the speech, it is important to understand the current political dynamics in Hamas and Gaza.