Yesterday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2006, was selected as chief of the Hamas political bureau, which exists in Gaza and other Middle Eastern countries. This is a move in the right direction for Hamas. For the past few years, I have somewhat followed the career of this handsome, 53-year old father of thirteen children. There have been several things he reportedly has said over the years that I like.
However, I don’t think I’m under any illusions about this. For several years, Hamas has been identified by both the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organization. Thus, it will not engage Hamas in political dialogue until it renounces terrorism and recognizes the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Hamas, especially much of its leadership in Gaza, definitely advocates violence against Israeli Jews and Israel. But Ismail Haniya has been a political leader of Hamas and therefore not directly involved in its military wing.
The New York Times reported today that the selection of Haniya is intended to soften Hamas’ image as as terrorist organization as it tries to gain more influence among Palestinians in general, thus also those living in the West Bank. Haniya’s election may even jumpstart the stalled unification attempt by the Islamic Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the secular Palestinian Authority, which controls Palestinians living in the West Bank. These are the two organizations that govern Palestinians, and they have been at odds with each other ever since Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007.
Hussam al-Dajani, a Palestinian writer and political analyst in Gaza, says of Haniya, “He is a flexible person who supports peace and unity and stability in the region.” Indeed, Haniya has publicly stated numerous times that he does not hate Jews and is not for the annihilation of the State of Israel. Rather, he claims to advocate peace with Israel. But Westerners for a long time have had a big problem with such statements by Palestinian leaders. It is because Hamas’ charter (Covenant) calls for the annihilation of Israel. However, Yasser Arafat headed the PLO, and in late 1980s onward he claimed the same peaceful intentions even though they clashed with the PLO charter. Arafat always maintained that the PLO would not change its charter but use that possible change as a bargaining chip in negotiations for peace with Israel.
Ismail Haniya and his family have always lived in the Gaza Strip. Ismail comes from the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. Strangely, Hamas also was announced that Mr. Haniya will move to Qatar. This Persian Gulf nation is friendly with the U.S. Yet Qatar may be Hamas’ most significant sponsor in recent years. The reason Haniya moving to Qatar also may be for his physical protection.
The NYT reports, “Last year Avigdor Lieberman, a hard-line Israeli politician, issued a blunt ultimatum to Mr. Haniya. Mr. Lieberman said that if he were defense minister, Mr. Haniya would be dead within 48 hours if he did not return two Israeli men and the remains of two soldiers that Hamas is believed to be holding in Gaza. Mr. Lieberman became defense minister a month later. The threat has so far remained unfulfilled.”
Another reason for Ismail Haniya’s selection is for Hamas to transition to younger leadership. Haniya is known for having some diplomatic skills. So, another reason for his selection is for Hamas to improve relations with Middle Eastern countries, especially Egypt. Ever since El-Sisi became president of Egypt, it has somewhat been shunned by Egypt.
This Haniya selection fits the scenario that I lay out in my book, Palestine Is Coming, and update articles about this book’s thesis on my website kermitzarley.com. (Read for free (right now) over half of this book as an e-book on this website.) It is just one more of many developments that have occurred ever since this book’s publication in 1990, now twenty-seven years ago, in which I predict that a Palestinian state will be created in the coastal plain only, with the Gaza Strip as its center. I base this scenario on my interpretations of ten prophecies in the Old Testament of the Bible.