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Removing Hamas: Brinkmanship Tactics or Coup D'etat; A View From Ramallah

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Within the context of a U.S.-Israeli determined campaign to remove the elected Islamic Resistance Movement from power, the best of the Palestinian mainstream anti-occupation activists of Fatah and Hamas are being polarized into a deadlocked divide that is already threatening an historic national unity with a looming civil war as a result of either risky brinkmanship tactics or what Hamas says a coup d'etat.

Either way the external campaign has succeeded in mobilizing an array of a minority of local would-be losers of any change to the pre-Hamas status quo to exacerbate inter-Palestinian disputes into a crisis by launching their own campaign to bring about the downfall of Hamas, using brinkmanship tactics that could hardly be distinguished from a coup d'etat.

Aside from the external influences but by necessity linked to them, this factor is the most fraught with the ingredients of a civil war among other internal ideological, historical and strategic factors that have contributed to the evolving crisis.

So far President Mahmoud Abbas could not distinctly dissociate from this minority and its risky brinkmanship tactics.

He however on Wednesday, during a joint press conference in the West Bank with the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, declared a very important point of departure with the adventurer minority that was gearing the political divide up towards a civil war by ruling out from the start the only credible breakthrough of a national unity government with Hamas.

A national unity government is his "preferable best choice," declared Abbas.

However he again blurred the distinction between his agenda and theirs when he announced that "all the options are open except only the civil war," leaving a wide space of manoeuvring for the reckless minority to continue fishing in the Palestinian troubled water.

This minority represents marginal cross-faction down to earth interests that had mushroomed to the verge of corruption; it identifies with the goals of the external anti-Hamas campaign and rules out any dialogue with Hamas even if that leads to infighting until the ruling Islamic group strictly, publicly and unconditionally commit to the U.S.-adopted Israeli conditions; it postures as a self-proclaimed "peaceniks" using the slogan of peace as a per se justification for its dangerous agenda.

Its role is oversized by preying on the Hamas-Fatah divide and the presidency-premiership conflicting agendas to conceal both its own agenda and underlying interests. This role is public knowledge to the rank and file of both Fatah and Hamas as well as for Palestinian public in general. It is also public knowledge to foreign "donors" and backers who nonetheless make use of this minority until they settle things with the key players in the tragic Palestinian drama.

However a lot of its image depends on its posturing as the power base and the mouthpiece of President Abbas; that's why his point of departure with it on Wednesday was very important although it was shortcoming.

Those self-proclaimed "peaceniks" rule out any middle ground agreement with Hamas, but advocate consistent contacts with the occupying power even without agreement; they are big mouths in urging Hamas to commit to PLO's signed accords with Israel, but keep mum on Israel's non-commitment to the same accords.

Citing an Israeli argument, they are inciting the PLO to take on the Islamic movement, allegedly to eliminate a major obstacle to kicking off the peace process.

All the alternative proposals for a breakthrough out of the crisis emanated from this minority and all of them serve the same goal: Removing Hamas from power.

First a referendum was proposed on the "prisoners' document," which was drafted by well-meaning leading detainees in the Israeli jails. Then proposals for holding legislative and not presidential elections were floated, to be followed by proposing a government of either technocrats or independents.

Worse still, this minority has been recently calling publicly and irresponsibly on President Abbas to declare a state of emergency, dissolve the Hamas-led government and form an emergency cabinet; the proposal boils down to a call for an outright presidential coup d'etat.

While practically this is possible in the West Bank where the Palestinian security forces could easily gain control in the Israeli-reoccupied territory, under the watching eyes of the reoccupying army, it is impossible without a civil war in the Gaza Strip, the major power base of Hamas where the Hamas-led government has fielded its own security executive forces.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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