ATbar Hamas: A Behavioral Profile
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Hamas: A Behavioral Profile

01/01/1997 | by Multiple Authors  
By Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela

Hamas (The Islamic Resistance Movement) emerged as an Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the Palestinian uprising (Intifada). In its religious vision, political and social goals, and communal action Hamas challenged the PLO as an exclusive political center of the Palestinian people, Hamas suggested an Islamic-nationalist doctrine instead of the PLO's secular nationalism and compromising political program regarding Palestinianhood and national territory, without essentially altering the latter's original maximalist goals and military means to achieve them. It is the Islamic ideology that shapes Hamas' political strategy as well as the rules and norms of its envisioned Palestinian state and society, with which Hamas has distinguished itself from the PLO. Yet, much of Hamas politics can be explained in terms of the tension between the dogmatic and the pragmatic approaches to the solution of the Palestinian problem, a tension between adherence to the radical Islamic principle of holy war (jihad) against Israel as a duty and as the most effective way to liberate Palestine and the awareness to the necessity of political considerations without abandoning the armed struggle.

This study endeavors to portray Hamas' worldview and to examine its conduct since its emergence at the beginning of the Palestinian uprising (Intifada) in late 1987. It also attempts to follow the ideological trends and political considerations that shaped Hamas' strategies of action and evaluate its options under circumstances of continued diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

The study is based on primary sources, mostly unpublished Arabic documents. They include leaflets and internal papers of Hamas as well as Palestinian, Islamic, and Israeli press.

Roots and Perceptions
Hamas' origins have been rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood Society (MB) (jama'at al-ikhwan al-muslimin) in the Gaza Strip and more specifically, in its main embodiment since the late 1970s - al-Mujamma' al-Islami. Under the Egyptian military government in the Gaza Strip (1948-1967), the MB activity was tolerated or repressed along with the policy conducted against the MB in Egypt itself. Thus, following the ban on the MB in Egypt in early 1949, the MB branch in Gaza was reshaped into a religious-educational center under the title Unification [of God] Association (jam'iyyat al-tawhid). During the short-lived honeymoon of relations between the Free Officers regime and the MB (1952-1954) the MB in the Strip prospered, attracting many young Palestinians in the refugee camps as well as in Egyptian universities. Yet the new, and long-standing, ban on the MB in Egypt in 1954 - following a MB attempt on Nasir's life--determined the hostile nature of relationship between the Nasirist regime and the MB, leading to the adoption of systematic repression against its leading members in the Gaza Strip as well. This forced the MB in the Strip to assume secret and discrete activity which, along with the pressure of the Arab nationalist wave in the early 1960s, led to the disintegration of the association. Nasir's harsh policy against the MB in Egypt reached the zenith in the aftermath of the coup d'etat attempt in 1965, which led to the arrest of thousands of the association's activists in Egypt, among whom was Ahmad Yasin, later the founder of Hamas.1

The origins of Islamic awakening in historic Palestine were not different from other countries in the Middle East which, since the late 1960s, has demonstrated itself as the most significant ideological, social, and political trend. Contemporary Islamic movements share the ideal of the Prophet's Muslim society, a religious and political community with the shari'a (the Islamic Law) as its sole source of law as well as the norm for individual behavior. Only the boundaries of the community of the faithful (umma) determine the boundaries of political power with no territorial definition for the Islamic state which is to be universal. Yet under this umbrella, mainstream Islamists have assumed typical national character, acquiescing in the existing international order of states and restricting their activity within state boundaries.2 Furthermore, modern radical Islam is highly fragmented within states, represented by political groups, movements, and formal parties that differ in their ideological zealotry, political platform, means, and relations with the ruling elite. Olivier Roy discerned two poles of Islamic thought which had marked contemporary Islamic movements in the 20th century: a revolutionary pole, for whom Islamization of the society is attained through state power, and a reformist pole for whom the advent of the Islamic state is the result of social and political action from bottom up aimed primarily to re-Islamize the society (neofundamentalism).3

One may assume that under the unique circumstances of Jewish domination in Palestine and military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian Islamists would be decisively inclined toward revolutionary political Islam. In reality, however, the MB in the occupied territories oscillated between two main attitudes and strategies of action concerning nationalist vis-a-vis all-Islamic priorities. As of the early 1980s, the Palestinian Islamist spectrum was defined, on the activist-nationalist end, by the Islamic Jihad Movement (harakat al-jihad al-islami) whose main thrust was "armed struggle now" for the liberation of Palestine in its entirety.

The proponents of this approach envisioned the mobilization of Islam in the liberation of Palestine. Until 1987, however, the mainstream of the Palestinian MB followed the universal, normative approach to the issue of Jihad. The representative of this approach was The Islamic Association (al-mujamma' al-islami) which, since its establishment in 1979, constituted the MB's main organization the Gaza Strip. The Mujamma', defined its goals sheerly in terms of individual acommunal work in the fields of preaching and education, health care, charity and social welfare in the spirit of Islamic moral tradition.4

That the Mujamma' continued to focus on reformist approach of Islamic action from bottom up was due to Israel's tacit consent to Islamic education, preaching and establishment of social and religious infrastructure. Apparently, the Israeli authorities perceived this brand of Islamic activity as harmless and a potential for balancing the nationalist militant movements under the PLO's umbrella.5 Thus, whereas the Islamic Jihad adopted unequivocal Palestinian nationalist affiliation, the Mujamma' claimed allegiance to an abstract Islamic identity, blurring the boundaries between state (dawla) and Islamic nation (umma), and to the "great religion" (al-din al-'azim) and its written law--the Qur'an.6

Until the breakout of the Intifada the Mujamma' adhered to the definition of the "internal jihad" within the Muslim community as a priority over the "external jihad" against Israel and the West. Political weakness apparently decided the choice of the Mujamma' founders that external Jihad had to be suspended until the advent of the Islamic state which would assume responsibility for it. Since the very existence of Israel was a result of abandoning Islamic norms, only when Islamization of society is completed and the Shari'a fully implemented that the Muslims would be capable of defeating Israel.7

The Intifada highlighted both the primacy and urgency of national Palestinian activism. The advent of Hamas indicated a shift of the Mujamma's center of gravity from all-Islamic vision with a focus on communal, civic activities to the nationalist sphere. From a movement fully dedicated to enhancement of family and community life, the Mujamma' core shifted toward political activism and violence against Israel for the sake of establishing an Islamic state on the whole territory of historic Palestine.

The Intifada resulted in a strong public claim among the Palestinians for a comprehensive mobilization of all individual and collective efforts for the sake of national struggle. The mass eruption of anger and frustration revealed the magnitude of the ethos of national resistance to Israel, turning the contribution and sacrifices of any organized group the main criterion of political legitimacy. By establishing Hamas the Mujamma' founding fathers legitimized the Jihad as a means for Islamic redemption, responding to current circumstances and pressures from within and recognizing the primacy of Palestinian nationalist action with the Intifada as its center-stage. Furthermore, failure to bandwagon the Intifada run the risk of loosing the opportunity for mass mobilization and defection of young Islamists from the Mujamma' ranks.8

The active participation of Hamas in the Intifada came as a threat to the PLO's hitherto exclusive role in the national arena. Concern that Hamas might lead to fragmentation and weakening of the Intifada effort resulted in the PLO's recurrent argument that it was Israel that brought to Hamas establishment in order to divide and weaken the Intifada and the PLO's position (similar accusations were made even after the onset of the Palestinian Self-Governing Authority in June 1994).9 Despite previous Fatah's criticism of the Islamic movement for not contributing to the national activity, acceleration of the tension between Hamas and Fatah was inevitable once Hamas begun to compete with the United National Command (UNC, the PLO-based Intifada leadership) over the day-to-day agenda of the uprising, employing leaflets as the main instrument of public communication and strategies of struggle against Israel, including armed struggle.

Islamism and Nationalism

From the outset, the Mujamma' represented an alternative discourse to the dominating Palestinian national one represented by the PLO. With the outbreak of the Intifada, the advent of Hamas as an ex-PLO movement, combining Palestinian nationalism and Islamism, clashed head-on with the PLO's claim for exclusive national authority. In August 1988, over eight months after its foundation, Hamas presented a basic ideological platform which assumed an unmistakable nationalist character, drawing on the same principles of the Palestinian National Charter yet casting them in Islamic terminology and context.l0 The Islamic Charter effectively proclaimed the PLO's Charter null and void, to be replaced by a true one, uncompromisingly faithful, on the one hand, to the Palestinian national principles as well as to the Islamic beliefs and values. Hamas Charter reiterated the MB 's slogan of "Allah is the target, the Messenger is the model, the Qur'an is its constitution, jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is its most sublime aspiration" (article 8), defining among its objectives to establish the rule of Islam, combating injustice and falsehood. Yet Hamas Covenant clearly paid little attention to the MB's core initial goal of transforming the society, placing much greater emphasis on retrieve the Palestinian homeland from the river to the sea in its entirety, and the means to fulfill this goal. Underlining its wholeness and indivisibility, the land of Palestine was defined as an Islamic endowment (waqf) "consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day" (article 11). Under this definition, any compromise of the land was absolutely unlawful and forbidden by the Islamic Law.

According to its charter Hamas is a "universal movement", and "one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine" (article 2 & 7). At the same time, Hamas is defined as a "distinguished Palestinian movement," whose struggle is to be waged over "every inch of Palestine" (article 6). Since Palestine is an Islamic problem, Hamas nationalism is part of the religious creed. Fighting the enemy that threatens a Muslim land is the most sacred duty of every individual Muslim (fad'ayn), man, woman or slave (article 12 & 15). Any political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rejected as an act against Islam. Thus, there is no other solution to this dispute but Jihad.

In view of these attitudes, Hamas could not but reject the PLO's secularist national strategy. Instead, the liberation of Palestine is perceived as the responsibility of three concentric circles: the Palestinian people, the Arab world and the Islamic world. Yet Hamas' Charter stated its willingness to fully subordinate itself to the PLO if it adopts Islam as its way of life (article 27), reiterating the kinship and national bonds linking the two rival movements, and expressing underlying fear of internal strife.

Hamas' Dilemmas
The adoption of Palestinian national values by Hamas was necessary for its development as a political alternative to the PLO. Failure to do that was tantamount to an acquiescence in a state of marginality and possibly demise. Furthermore, Hamas' tacit claim for all-Palestinian leadership obliged the new movement to address a wide spectrum of issues relevant to its specific constituency, manifesting a high level of attendance to the populace needs and its ability to adapt to the decisions on practical daily issues.

Hamas' effort to secure a dominant public position through a commitment to advance particular Palestinian interests, and at the same time to maintain its affiliation to universal Islamic vision confronted Hamas with acute dilemmas. These dilemmas, which accompanied Hamas since its establishment at the beginning of the Intifada, aggravated especially since the September 1993 Israel-PLO Oslo accord and the establishment of the PNA in Gaza and Jericho in June 1994.

Hamas' awareness of the need to secure its presence and influence within the Palestinian population, amid competition with the PNA, necessitated flexibility of its uncompromising attitude toward a settlement with Israel. That is, a willingness to consider measures that imply acquiescence and even some form of participation in building the PNA. Such measures may help Hamas to acquire legitimacy to its existence and maintain its position in the Palestinian society. However, by adopting such a strategy Haruns the risk of losing its uniqueness as a normative opposition to the PLO, increasing the risk of friction within the movement, subjecting it to manipulation by the nationalist movement represented by the PLO and the PNA. Adherence to the dogmatic vision would also raise confusion and uncertainties. Conformity to Hamas' stated religious doctrine strengthens its credibility among followers and adversaries alike. At the same time, however, it runs the risk of undermining the support of the Palestinian public, eager to see an end to their social and economic hardships.

The principle that guided Hamas' response to these dilemmas was based on the assumption that the more the concept of a political dialogue with Israel and cooperation with the PLO could be justified in normative terms the less the possibility of being accused by its members and followers of deviating from the ultimate vision, and the less the risk of organizational disintegration. And one can best follow Hamas' efforts to justify its position by analyzing its attitudes and policy toward Israel and the PLO during the Intifada as well as to the Oslo agreement and establishment of the PNA in Gaza and Jericho in June 1994. Hamas' positions combined new political ideas with old beliefs, emphasizing long-run goals and short-run requirements. They demonstrated conformity with the formal doctrine while showing signs of political flexibility. Patterns of political adjustment in terms of controlled violence, negotiated coexistence and calculated participation in the PNA's emerging institutions became the main features of Hamas' political conduct.

1. Ziad Abu-Amr, Islamic Fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 9.

2. See, for example, Hassan A. Turabi, "Islam as a Pan-National Movement", RSA Journal, August-September, 1992, pp. 608-619.

3. Olivier Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1994, pp. 24, 77-80.

4. Request for registration of Jam'iyyat Jawrat al-Shams al-Islamiyya (later known as al-Mujamma' al-islami) by Ya'qub 'Uthman Quayq to the Civil Administration, August 4, 1977.

5. In 1967-86 the number of mosques in the Gaza Strip doubled (from 77 to 150). Most of the new mosques were private, The (Israeli) Civil Administration, The Islamic Activity in the Gaza Region, Gaza, 1987, p. 15. See also Housing Minister Ben-Eli'ezer quoted in Yedi'ot Aharonot, June 17, 1994.

6. Leaflet of the "Islamic Block" in the Islamic University of Gaza, n.d. (1986).

7. Emanuel Sivan, Radical Islam, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1985, pp. 28-32 (Hebrew); Hisham Ahmad, Hamas, PASSIA, Jerusalem, 1994, p. 26.

8. Ahmad Bin Yusuf, Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, pp. 34-35.

9. Schiff and Ya'ari, Intifada, p. 237; Interview of the PLO ambassador in Amman, 'Umar al-Khatib, al-Nahar, January 18, 1995; 'Arafat to al-Nahar, November 29, 1994; al-Sharq al- Awsat, July 26, 1995; Hala Mustafa, al-Tayar al-islami fi al-Ard al-Muhtalla", Al- Mustaqbal al-Arabi, no. 113(August 1988), p. 86

10. For a detailed comparison between the two documents, see al-Qadiyya al-Filastiniyya Bayn Mithaqayn: al-Mithag al-Watani wa-Mithaq Harakat al-Muqawama al-lslamiyya (Hamas), Kuwait, Maktabat Bar al-Bayan, 1989.

The Politics of Controlled Violence

Hamas' perception of Palestine as an inalienable Muslim endowment (waqf) and commitment for its entire liberation from Israeli occupation leaves no opening for a dialogue or a political settlement with Israel. Hamas believes that the Jihad against Israel articulates the true aspirations and needs of the Palestinian people, expressing the real meaning of Palestinian national ethos.1 Yet Hamas' concern about the population's daily interests and immediate needs increased its awareness and deepened its hesitations to translate its dogmatic vision into practice. Calculated policy and confrontational activities thus characterized its mode of operation. This was reflected in Hamas' directives to the public about its role in the uprising.2

The Intifada as a Controlled Civil Revolt
Hamas called upon the population to cooperate in both violent and non-violent actions. The former included throwing stones and firebombs, building barriers, burning tires, wielding knives and axes, dashing with the Israeli forces and attacking collaborators. In the realm of non-violent activity, the population was to take action in three areas: (1) to sever economic ties with Israel and to build up local institutions which would provide substitute public services; (2) to engage in civil disobedience, i.e., disobey laws and regulations; and (3) to carry out activities that promote solidarity.

An analysis of the first 30 leaflets issued by Hamas shows that of 139 violent and non-violent directives in Hamas leaflets, 36 (about 26% of the total) appeared in the first ten leaflets, 40 (29%) in leaflets 11-20, and 63 (more than 45%) in leaflets 21-30. The increase in the number of directives was accompanied by a significant change over time, in the proportion between instructions calling for violent or non-violent activity. While the violence level of the Hamas was consistently high from the start of the Intifada: 30.5% of the 36 instructions in the first 10 leaflets; 40% of 40 instructions in leaflets 11-20, and 39.7% of the 63 instructions in leaflets 21-30, a drastic decrease is visible in the number of instructions for severing ties with Israel in the realms of the economy and services. From close to 25% in the first 20 leaflets, the calls to break economic ties with Israel declined drastically to less than 5% in the leaflets 21-30.

These trends reflect the contradictory considerations guiding Hamas' behavior. On the one hand, Hamas was aware of the vital role played by violence in propelling the Intafada and in securing political prestige. On the other hand, the Intifada's real capacity for endurance depended on the Palestinian populace's economic soundness. In the absence of self sustaining economic capability, dependence on Israel has become a way of life, turning excessive pressure to sever contact with Israel ineffective. To intensify the economic boycott against and disengagement from its economy would mean economic hardship for tens of thousands of workers who earned their living in Israel, and a huge loss of revenue for many local merchants and factory owners who maintained commercial ties with Israeli firms. In turn, a sever economic downturn in these sectors would weaken the influence of the Hamas, stir disobedience and encourage anarchy. If the Intifada's strength lay in its ability to obtain the cooperation of all social strata and age groups, it is really understandable how the ideologically heretical suddenly became economically inevitable.

The inability or unwillingness of merchants, factory owners and workers to break off economic relations with Israel, forced Hamas to adapt itself to the circumstances and bow to the constraints. Hence the drastic decrease in the number of directives, urging an economic break with Israel. Instructions in this spirit continued to appear, but more selectively. This was particularly noticeable as regards work in Israel and the boycotting of Israeli products. Later Hamas' leaflets noted clearly that the prohibition on working in Israel was confined to days of general strikes or to persons employed in sectors that competed with products of the territories, such as the citrus industry. In the same vein, Hamas called for a boycott of products for which local substitutes were available, notably milk products, agricultural produce, cigarettes and soft drinks. The decline in the number of directives calling for a total economic break with Israel indicates a reassessment by Hamas concerning the limits of the Intifada. This awareness explains why Hamas stepped back from declaring a general civil revolt and preferred to hammer home the idea that the uprising, or Jihad, was a stage toward a total revolt.

The controlled civil revolt, like the continuous decline in the number of directives calling for the severance of economic ties with Israel, was an evidence thfrom the very beginning of the Intifada, Hamas had calculated its strategy on the basis of cost\benefit considerations. Hamas was avoiding a slide into absurdities in the efforts to realize its objectives. Hamas recognized the limits of its power and was careful not to cross the brink and fall into all-out confrontation with Israel. Jihad turned to be not an ultimate goal but a political instrument subdued to political considerations.

Hamas' ability to differentiate between an all-out struggle and pragmatic considerations depended to a large extent on its leadership's prestige and authority to interpret the deviation in normative terms. In this context the religious concept of sabr (self-command, perseverance) proved useful in justifying restrained policies. Sabr was enlisted to justify avoidance of confrontation with compelling realities as well as to justify temporary acceptance of, and adaptation to, such realities. Sabr has been explained and justified by the assumption that the true believers will eventually prevail, no matter how despairing is the present. The future will reward the present believer, but he must be patient ("Alla is with the patients").3 Thus Sabr proved instrumental in explaining that the struggle against Israel and the Jews should be based on cost\benefit considerations despite their being the enemies of Islam.

Controlled Violence and the Oslo Accord
Hamas' policy of controled violence against Israel sustained well after the Oslo accord signed on September 13, 1993, reflecting pragmatic calculations rather than captivity by dogmatic ideology.4 The Oslo accord created a tight linkage between the PLO and the process of peaceful Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Military attacks by Hamas against Israeli targets risked a halt of the peace process or at least its slowdown. Such a prospect would portray Hamas among the Palestinians in the occupied territories as an obstacle to further Israeli retreat and erode the movement's public support. Also, such policy could lead to civil strife and violent confrontation with the PNA which Hamas insisted to prevent almost at any price.5 Yet peaceful co-existence with the PNA at the price of ceasing the armed struggle against Israel would risk a loss of Hamas' distinctiveness as a combatant movement for the liberation of Palestine as a whole and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state. Without the legitimacy shield of Jihad, Hamas would be exposed to processes of encapsulation and coaptation that may lead to its disappearance as a political power.6

While adhering to the armed struggle, Hamas subordinated the use of violence against Israel to calculations of reckoning with the responses of the PNA and the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Along this line Hamas assumed that controlled violence against Israel might be desirable to the PNA, to instigate Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories. Thus whereas Hamas accelerated its attacks against Israel's withdrawing forces from Gaza Strip, it adopted a "wait and see" position during the first few months of the PNA, to examine the boundaries of freedom of action under the new authority. Hamas' renewed violent attacks against Israel derived from indications that Arafat had been trying to prevent a clash head-on with the Islamists. This was indicated by the temporary arrests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, and Arafat's permissive approach to attacks against Israeli targets within the "green line." Arafat's approach enabled the PNA to claim no accountability since the perpetrators had launched their attacks from areas under Israel's administration.7

Indeed, Hamas' continuous military operations against Israel was tacitly acceptable to the PNA, believing that it would also prevent internal confrontation between Hamas and the PNA.8 Hamas insisted on continuous jihad regardless of the Oslo process, maintaining that it complements the diplomatic means and expedite Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and application of Palestinian autonomy on this territory as a whole. True, the PNA-Hamas dialogue conducted in the summer and fall of 1995 witnessed a growing gap over the issue of controlled violence, mainly due to the imposition of continued closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel in retaliation to the terrorist attacks. Thus, while the Minister of Planning in the PNA, Nabil Sha'ath, called for freezing the armed operations and giving the diplomatic process a chance, Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahar insisted that the employment of arms was legitimate and that the simultaneous use of war and peace possible.9

That Hamas armed struggle has been perceived as a means and not a goal in its own right, was made clear by the movement's leading figures in Gaza. Probably the most outspoken was Mahmud al-Zahar's statement that:

We must calculate the benefit and cost of continued armed operations. If we can fulfill our goals without violence, we will do so. Violence is a means not a goal. Hamas' decision to adopt self-restraint does not contradict our aims, including the establishment of an Islamic state instead of Israel .... We will never recognize Israel but it might be possible that a truce (muhadana) would prevail between us for days, months or years ...10

Hamas' policy of controlled violence, however, could hardly be a prescription for stability. The Israel-PLO Oslo accord and the May 1994 Cairo agreement on the establishment of the PNA in Gaza and Jericho were perceived by Hamas as a strategic threat to its very existence. The more real this threat seemed as a result of the progress in the diplomatic process between Israel and the PNA-the more Hamas was willing to adopt the option of armed struggle which risked the continued employment of controlled violence and the dialogue with the PNA.

On April 6 and 13, 1994, shortly before the signing of the Cairo Agreement on the implementation of autonomy in Gaza and Jericho, two suicidal operations were perpetrated in Afula and Hadera by Hamas' military wing, 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam. The suicidal attacks meant to undermine the peace process by manifesting Israel's vulnerability as well as enhancing Hamas' prestige as the real Palestinian political leadership, and force Arafat's authority to come to terms with Hamas as a legitimate opposition.11 Israel's anti-terrorist operations against 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam, and Hamas' growing fear that progress in the implementation of the Oslo accord was bound to aggravate its marginalization, underpinned another wave of suicidal bombings in Tel Aviv (October 1994) and in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem in July and August 1995, respectively. The latter two attacks coincided with the final phase of the Israel-PNA negotiations over Israel's withdrawal from most of the Palestinian inhabited areas in the West Bank and the general elections to the PNA's Council to be held thereafter.

The signing of Oslo II agreement on September 28, 1995, apparently brought Hamas leaders inside the territories to a decision to suspend the terrorist attacks against Israel in order to avoid interruption of the Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian cities, and the preparation for elections to the PNA Council, which could upset the Palestinian public. It was against this backdrop that various groups of Hamas made attempts to employ this self-imposed truce as a card in their encounter with the PNA and, indirectly, with Israel. Yet while "inside" Hamas activists had supported an agreement with the PNA on total cease of terrorist attacks against Israel, in the PNA-Hamas talks held in Cairo in December 1995, the "outside" Hamas leadership forced its refusal to accept such a truce. All that Hamas delegates were willing to undertake was a vaguely phrased commitment for a temporary halt of military operations against Israel from the autonomy areas and refraining from publicly announcing, or admitting, responsibility to such attacks, in order to prevent the PNA's "embarrassment."12

Although the Cairo talks ended with no official agreement, the leading delegates did sign a joint communique. The document tacitly exposed their mutunderstanding that since the defense of Israel was not the PNA's responsibility, Hamas' armed struggle against Israel could continue as long as it would not be waged from the PNA-controlled area.13 It is noteworthy that the PNA was initially willing to accept such a vague commitment on Hamas' part, apparently as the lesser evil, given the approaching date of the general elections to the PNA Council, scheduled for January, and in order to ensure their smooth conduct.14

However, the problematic of sustained policy of controlled violence against Israel regardless of its geographical origin, Israel's retaliatory policy of prolonged closures on the Palestinian population, and Israel's covert killing of two leading Palestinian figures behind the suicidal attacks--the Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shiqaqi in Malta (26 October), and 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam's "engineer" Yahya 'Ayyash (5 January, 1996)--all led to fierce promises of their respective organizations to retaliate in revenge. Moreover, the killing of Ayyash, apart from the duty to respond in kind to the murder of a national martyr and save the movement's prestige, provided those groups and individuals who wanted to upset the dialogue with the PNA a pretext to resume the suicidal attacks.15 Hence, after a break of six months, a wave of suicidal attacks in Jerusalem, Ashkelon, and Tel Aviv in February-March 1996, was perpetrated by 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam. While these operations represented a response in kind in order to prevent loss of prestige in the Palestinian public, it also revealed the weakness of the local political leadership and its lacking control over the movement's armed apparatuses.16 Yet despite the PNA's crack down on Hamas' military apparatuses following the February-March suicidal attacks, under strict pressure of Israel and in coordination with its intelligence services, Hamas adhered to the concept of prohibiting a confrontation with the PNA. Moreover, Hamas demonstrated willingness to accept the PNA demand to refrain from military operations against Israel, in return, the PNA was to cease of persecution of 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam's members.17

Aware of the initial popular relief at Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories, Hamas forged a strategy that would secure its popularity among the masses and arouse popular resistance to the Oslo process without being accused of its failure's. Thus, Hamas followed a policy of controlled violence against Israel and dialogue and coexistence with the PNA despite the normative and political difficulties it entailed. Politics of adjustment was perceived by Hamas as a lesser evil, considering the alternative of a head-on collision with Israel and the PNA.

1. See for example Hamas' leaflets of March 13 and August 18, 1988.

2. Fatah views Shaikh 'lzz al-Din al-Qassam as a national hero and not a religious figure. Fatah issued a special publication in his commemoration, Thawrat al-Shaikh 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam, Beirut, 1977. The Palestinian left regards Shaikh al-Qassam as a social rebel.

3. Sumud is an equivalent value used by the PLO to encourage inhabitants in the Occupied Territories as a formula settling the contradiction between the principle of armed struggle and quiet and collaboration with the occupying authorities.

4. See for example interview with Muse Abu Manuq, head of Hamas' Political Bureau, Filastin al-Muslima, June 1994.

5. Hamas, "Refraining from Internal War and the Boundaries of Self-Defense," October 1993; Mahmud al-Zahar to al-Nahar (Jerusalem), October 25, 1995; Other sources, regarding prevention of Taqtil.

6. Hamas, "A Draft Plan for Popular and Political Coping Inside with the Gaza and Jericho Agreement," October 9, 1993.

7. Y.M. Ibrahim, 'Palestinian Religious Militants: Why their Ranks are Growing," The New York Times, November 8, 1994. Y. Melman, "War and Peace Process," The Washington Post, January 29, 1995;

8. Sawt al-Haqq wal-Huriyya, May 13, 1994; el-Muhanir (Jordan), December 4, 1994.

9. The PNA Ministry of Information, "The Relations Between the PNA and the Opposition Elements," April 12, 1995.

10. Al-Quds, October 12, 1995.

11. Khalid al-Kharub, 'Harakat Hamas Bayn al-Sulta al-Filastiniyya wa-Isra'il: Min Muthallath al-Qiwa Ila al-hnitraqa wal-Sandan," Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, no. 18, (1994), pp. 28-29.

12. Al-Quds, December 22, 1995; al-Nahar, December 23, 1995.

13. Al-Quds, December 24, 1995; al-Wasat, January 1, 1996, p. 30; al-Bilad, January 2, 1996.

14. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, (Ramallah) October 11, 1995.

15. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, al-Quds, and al-Nahar, January 7, 1996; Ha'aretz, January 8, 1996.

16. If, indeed, these bus bombings had been inspired by Iran in order to fail the Labor Party in the general elections as a means to bring to a halt the peace process, it indicated the failure of the concept of controlled violence.

17. Ha'aretz, January 8, 1996; al-Wasat, March 4, 1996, p. 21.

18. Bassam Jarrar to al-Quds, February 5, 1994; Jamil Hamami's statement in al-Nahar (Jerusalem), February 9, 1994; Hamas, "The Indoctrination Policy in the Next Phase (Following the Gaza Jericho Agreement)," October 28, 1993.

Coexistence in Protracted Conflict

The emergence of Hamas as a political and normative opposition to the PLO was marked by a growing tension with the latter over both shaping the day-to-day activities of the Intifada and the peace process. Yet, due to Hamas' sense of political weakness, its attitude to the PLO was marked by ambivalence, reflecting an effort to maintain a dialogue and to ensure modes of coexistence.

The Intifada and Hamas-PLO Relations
During the Intifada Hamas manifested a conciliatory approach to the PLO, praising its historical record of armed struggle and political achievement in raising the Palestinian refugee problem internationally to a national liberation issue.1 Hamas' approach reflected awareness of the PLO's prestige and prominence in the Palestinian society, striving to refute the latter's accusations pertaining to the MB's past absence from the battle against Israel. Despite the fundamental differences between the two leading Palestinian movements, Hamas persisted in proclaiming its willingness for limited cooperation with the PLO on an agreed platform for the liberation of Palestine as a whole in order to prevent intra-Palestinian disputes.2 Especially in view of its total rejection of the 1991 Madrid peace negotiations with Israel, Hamas' awareness of its limited capabilities to liberate Palestine or confront Fatah, led to the adoption of a rather realistic approach toward the issue of political settlement with Israel, marked by calculated deviation from its stated doctrine. In fact, the pattern of controlled violence against Israel also characterized Hamas' efforts to seek a flexible strategy that would enable the movement to coexist with the PLO without being identified with the peace process or seem to have abandoned its original goal of establishing an Islamic state over the whole territory of historic Palestine.

This approach found its expression in various statements made by its prominent leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, during the Intifada. Following are three examples:

1) Hamas does not rule out the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as long as it would be considered as a first phase on the road to the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Palestine.3

2) Hamas is ready to consider international supervision in the territories after the Israeli withdrawal as long as it would be limited in time and would not require direct and clear cut concessions to Israel.4

3) Hamas will reject any attempt to enter into political negotiations with Israel over peace agreement as long as Israel continued to control the territories. However, Hamas would not exclude such initiative after full Israeli withdrawal.5

Yasin's statements reflected deeply rooted tendencies within Hamas to follow the prose of reality while at the same time, maintaining the poetry of its ideology. By adopting a strategy of neither full acceptance nor total rejection of the PLO's program of political settlement, Hamas waable to justify its position in normative terms, interpreting such "concessions" as tactical moves. While a final peace settlement with Israel is forbidden--and if signed, would be null and void a-priori. Hamas left open the option of an agreement with Israel provided that it assumes a temporary form, denoting neither peace (salam) nor final conciliation (sulh); that it coincides with the Muslims' interest (maslaha); and would not legitimize the enemy's presence on an occupied Islamic land.6

Hamas demonstrated its flexibility by differentiating between short-term goal of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and a long-term goal of establishing a Palestinian Islamic state on the whole territory of Palestine that would replace Israel. Adopting this order of goals, Hamas practically subordinated the former to the latter by emphasizing the transitional nature and temporary status of any political settlement with Israel. Hamas disqualified the PLO's legitimacy to represent the Palestinian people and, at the same time, expressed willingness to enter into a political coalition with it "on an agreed program focused on jihad."7

Indeed, during the Intifada, Hamas made an intensive effort to attain official representation in all the popular, sectorial, and local institution such as chambers of commerce, labor unions, professional organizations, and student associations. The Hamas-PLO competition found its vivid expression in their efforts toward mass mobilization through organized civil disobedience, political and economic boycott, protestation, and strikes. As of late 1989, PLO's frustrated attempts to pressure Hamas to accept the UNC authority increased the tension between the two rival movements. Especially bothering the PLO was Hamas' growing popularity, independent decisions regarding the execution of collaborators, and setting separate dates for strikes and protest which seemed to challenge the PLO's own authority represented by the UNC. Another cause of tension between the two movements' activists was the exclusion of Hamas by Fatah and the leftists from the prisoners' committees in the Israeli prisons and detainee camps.8

These circumstances became a fertile soil for armed clashes between Fatah's and Hamas's activists in the occupied territories, reaching sporadic armed clashes in Tul Karm and Gaza. In September 1990, at the initiative of leading MB figures in Jordan, Hamas and Fatah agreed on a "Charter of Honor" which recognized Hamas' legitimate existence as an equal and independent faction, with both signatories undertaking to refrain from hostilities. The agreement meant to put an end to the immediate origins of the Fatah-Hamas clashes, mainly the former's veto on participation of Hamas in the prisoners' committees. Although the agreement paid lip service to the principle that "Islam is deeply-rooted in us, it is our principle as Muslims, and way of our life," the main bones of political contention between Fatah and Hamas namely, the latter's independence and growing challenge to the PLO authority, remained intact.9

Hamas successes notwithstanding, it could not overlook the PLO's pressure to join the over-all Palestinian national organization as one of its factions. In April 1990, following the approach of the PNC's Chairman, Shaikh 'Abd al-Hamid al-Sa'ih, Hamas applied to the PNC to participate in the PLO. However, afraid of being co-opted and manipulated by Fatah, Hamas demanded general elections among all the Palestinians both in the homeland and the diaspora for the PNC. If the circumstances would not allow such elections, Hamas insisted to be allotted at least 40 percents of the PNC seats, based on its proven electoral power in elections to public institutions in the occupied territories. In addition, Hamas demanded changes in the Palestinian National Charter, rejection of any political negotiations with Israel and adoption of the Jihad as a sole means to liberate Palestine. Hamas also demanded proportionate financial allocations and incorporation of its own representatives in the PLO's bureaucracy.

Hamas' demands reflected a claim for equal weight to Fatah which would abolish its unchallenged domination in the PLO. At the least, it was to provide Hamas a veto power on the PLO's decision-making, which explains Arafat's rejection of Hamas' demands, and alternative offer of no more than 20 percents. The contention over Hamas' participation in the PLO had remained unresolved until the Madrid peace conference in October 1991 when the issue was effectively dropped from the agenda. In the debate between the two movements, the PLO--effectively Fatah-- presented its relations with Hamas in terms of state vis-a-vis a splinter group that rebelled against the state's legitimacy. The PLO, according to Fatah, was the Palestinian homeland, entity and state, thus, it was above any partisan debate. It was legitimate to criticize Fatah but not the PLO, which was tantamount to heresy (ridda), the latter maintained.10

Responding to Fatah's campaign against its refusal to join the PLO as one of its factions, Hamas' argumentation combined pragmatic and ideological principles. Hamas referred to democratic principles, expressing willingness to respect a majority decision of the Palestinian people. Following the PLO's consent to Palestinian participation in the Madrid peace conference, Hamas claimed that the majority of the Palestinians rejected the "conference of wholesale of the land, denying the PLO's legitimacy to represent the Palestinian people. Such legitimacy, Hamas reiterated, could be attained only on the basis of "Islamization" of the PLO's political program namely, the unconditional return to the armed struggle until the liberation of the whole Palestinian land.11

Toward the end of the year 1992 the PLO-Hamas relationship reached the lowest ebb as Arafat demonstrated growing rudeness in his attacks and humiliating expressions against Hamas. Apart from devaluating Hamas' gains in the elections to public institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Arafat endeavored to delegitimize his rival movement, suggesting that its close collaboration with Iran run against the principle of independent Palestinian decision-making, and accusing Hamas of serving Iranian foreign interests.l2 Apart from aggravating the conflict with the PLO, Hamas' alliance with Iran deepened the discontent within the movement's leadership between two currents. A minority trend, apparently represented by the "inside" leadership, advocated Palestinization of the movement, cessation of the armed struggle, focusing on overt and peaceful effort which would protect Hamas from the Israeli repression and exempt it from the need to ally with the PLO as a shield. The majority current, however, representing primarily the "outside" leadership, sought to Islamize the Palestinian conflict with Israel through alliance with other Islamic movements, especially with Iran. The proponents of this policy presented Hamas as the true representative of the Palestinian people, and thus as a moral and political alternative to the PLO whose collapse they perceived only a matter of time.13

On December 17 1992, the PLO was confronted by a new political dilemma when Israel deported 415 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists to south Lebanon, following the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli Border Guard soldier. It was the largest deportation of Palestinians from the occupied territories Israel had undertaken ever since 1967. Among the deportees were Hamas' top leaders as well as the backbone of the movement's political, educational and religious activists in the occupied territories, apparently none with military affiliation or record. The unprecedented Israeli measure backfired almost immediately, demonstrating the limits of the attempt to eliminate the movement's civic and political basis.

Although the mass deportation temporarily paralyzed Hamas, it boosted the movement's prestige in the Palestinian public opinion. The public urge to resume the PLO-Hamas dialogue found Hamas in a perceived favorable position vis-a-vis the PLO, stating that a unified Palestinian position can only be possible the PLO corrected its mistake by withdrawing from the Madrid negotiations. Hamas' position on this issue was presented as "clear and non-negotiable." The deportation triggered an ad-hoc agreement between all leading military organizations operating in the field--Fatah's Hawks, the Red Eagles, and Battalions of 'lzz al-Din al-Qassam-to cooperate militarily in operations against Israel. The effective pressure exerted by Hamas, the deportees' family members, and public opinion, on the Palestinian delegates to the peace talks and the PLO's leadership all but committed the latter to proclaim the renewal of the talks---which had been adjourned for Christmas break conditional on the return of the deportees, a victory for Hamas which neither Israel nor the PLO had desired.14

Despite manifestations of Palestinian solidarity with the deported Islamists, the Israeli reaction confronted Hamas with a dilemma in the context of its relations with the PLO. Hamas' appeal to the Arab and international community in the name of human rights and Palestinian legitimacy meant recognition of those circles supporting Israel or strongly advocating the peace process. At the same time, the deportation gave the PLO an opportunity to champion the international diplomatic campaign against Israel in an attempt to force the Rabin government to allow the return of the deportees to their homes, highlighting its role as the representative of all the Palestinians, no matter their ideological or political affiliation. It is against this backdrop that the PLO called Hamas for a meeting in Tunis immediately after the deportation, the gist of which was to coopt Hamas into the PLO's efforts on behalf of the deportees as step toward Hamas' full incorporation in the PLO. The dilemma confronted by Hamas was clearly indicated by its uneasy acceptance of the PLO's call and insistence on receiving a written invitation, denoting recognition, from Arafat himself before sending its delegates to Tunis.15

The December 1992 Tunis talks were marked by the dialogue of the deaf as each side repeated its own agenda, leaving their differences as unresolved as ever. Aside from the return of the deportees, Hamas repeated its claims for the PLO's withdrawal from the peace talks and escalation of the Intifada and armed struggle within the occupied territories, on which it gained the PFLP and DFLP delegates' support. Arafat firmly rejected Hamas demand to withdraw from the peace negotiations. While avoiding the call for escalating the armed struggle, Arafat repeated his offer to Hamas to join the PLO as the second largest faction in the PNC. Hamas' delegation expressed no more than willingness to learn Arafat's proposals.

Hamas' unprecedented participation in the PLO's leadership meeting at its headquarters in Tunis---despite internal reluctance and Iranian discontent-seemed tantamount to a tacit recognition of the PLO's status as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and of Arafat's legitimate leadership. Indeed, Hamas' decision to attend the Tunis talks obviously represented consideration of its "inside" infrastructure's needs and wish to accept Arafat's extended hand. However, while Hamas gave its consent to continue the dialogue with Fatah in Khartoum in early January 1993, its political leadership remained as firm as before regarding its conditions for cooperation with the PLO.16

Hamas made its participation in the PLO conditional on comprehensive reorganization of the PNC and the PLO which would give the former veto power on their political decisions. Despite the failure of Fatah and Hamas to reach a political agreement, the tension between the two movements, mainly in the Gaza Strip, continued to nourish both occasional violence and efforts to come to terms on avoiding them. Even before the signing of the Oslo agreement, rumors about possible unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip led Hamas to seek an agreement with the PLO, apparently in order to prevent the use of force by Fatah Hawks against its active members.l7

On the day the Declaration of Principles (DOP) was signed in Washington, Hamas issued a statement expressing its "complete rejection ... of the 'Gaza-Jericho First' for its conclusion of dangerous concessions, its total departure from national and legal norms and its outright transgression of the red lines agreed upon by the Palestinian National Council in successive sessions... an accord that brings only limited and fragmented self-administration in Gaza and Jericho, representing affront to our honor, a denial of our sacrifices and years of struggle, and a violation of our established historical rights to the land of Palestine."18 Yet despite its urge to continue the armed struggle against Israel, Hamas manifested its pragmatic approach by restricting its response toward the future Palestinian self-governing authority, issuing decisive instructions to prevent infighting, and keeping open channels to Fatah.19

The Inconclusive Post-Oslo Dialogue
The Oslo agreement put Hamas in quandary. Hamas was aware that a new situation had emerged in which the Islamic movement would have to confront both Israel and the PLO if it were to adhere to its political principles. According to this logic, all out confrontation would preserve the movement's principles and militant image but would risk its very existence. Most dangerous yet, a confrontation could erode Hamas' capability to underwrite its social and economic services to the community, perceived crucial to maintain its popular influence.

A "successful" Jihad, that is, one which would bring to an end the peace process, would certainly aggravate the socio-economic predicament of the Palestinian society--for which Hamas would be blamed--and lead to alienation from Hamas. On the other hand, cooperation with the PLO would entail a danger of "divide and rule" and cooptation of segments of the movement's leadership into the system, and loss of Hamas' bargaining position toward Israel and the PLO.

With the establishment of the PNA in June 1994, Hamas' dilemma further aggravated. The formation of a centralized authority by Arafat was saliently embodied by the establishment of large police and security forces. in addition, Arafat maintained a growing control of financial flow into the West Bank and Gaza, control of the media, and established growing collaboration with Israeli authorities on intelligence and security matters. The speedy process of establishing the PNA's means of power enhanced its capability to mobilize public support and limit the opportunities of action by the Islamic movement.20 It is this institutionalization of the PNA that increased Hamas' awareness of the need to search for a new working formula that would bridge the gap between its ideology and the dramatically changing reality. Similarly to Shaikh Yasin's early statements during the Intifada, Hamas manifested sensitivity to and awareness of practical considerations of "here and now" that made all the more realistic an indirect dialogue with Israel.

The main considerations in favor of a pragmatic approach had been succinctly explained by Musa Abu Marzuq, head of the movement's Political Bureau, shortly before the Calm agreement on implementation of Palestinian autonomy in Gaza and Jericho.21 Abu Marzuq expressed concern at the ensuing agreement between Israel and the PLO, pointing to three major threats that Hamas' continued intransigence toward the current process entailed:

* A threat to Hamas' presence in Jordan, the "second arena of action after Palestine," due to joint Israeli and American pressures.

* A growing negative perception of Hamas in the international arena, as a murderous and terrorist movement that targets civilians.

* Exposure of Hamas to domestic Palestinian criticism due to the absence of a positive alternative strategy to the peace process.

According to Abu Marzuq, Hamas' difficulty to cope effectively with these threats derived from:

* Identity of interests between the US, Israel, Jordan and the PLO. Additionally, most Arab states and the international community support the peace process and agree that Hamas constitutes the main threat to its success.

* Hamas' military inferiority vis-a-vis the PNA's police and security agencies.

* Hamas infrastructure's dependence on external financial resources, which can be easily affected through the PNA's legislation and administrative restrictions.

Indeed, the advent of the PNA in Gaza downsized Hamas to a second-class party after a long period of enjoying control of the street and enforcing its rules. Despite all its pitfalls, the Oslo process gained, especially during the first eighteen months, public appreciation at its both collective achievements as well as its rewards to certain groups.

Growing groups of bureaucrats employed by the PNA and entrepreneurs emerged, interested in preserving the economic benefits of work for the PNA as well as of those working in Israel or with Israelis. Hamas was also aware of the strong international and regional support that the Oslo process gained, turning any attempt to wreck it tantamount to a "political illusion." Furthermore, Hamas' leaders expressed awareness of the world and regional trends regarding the Islamic movements that had been forced to take a defensive position almost in all the Arab countries. Hamas lacked strategic depth or support also within the Palestinians: its supporters in the territories have been in a minority; the Islamic movement in Israel was closer to Arafat than to Hamas, and even the Islamic movement in Jordan was strictly under control of the Jordanian regime.22

Toward a Strategy of Mutual Restraint
The relations with Hamas had obviously been high on the PNA's agenda since its signing of the DOP in September 1993. Yet despite 'Arafat's attempts to enlist leading MB figures in Egypt to incorporate Hamas (and the Islamic Jihad as well) to the PNA's institutions, the latter remained adamant not to accept less than official status that would secure its uninterrupted development under the PNA. The violent clash of November 18, 1994 between a PNA police force which opened fire at Hamas rioting worshipers following the Friday prayer in Filastin Mosque of Gaza, confronted the Islamists in the Gaza Strip with an unprecedented reality. It was a demonstration of the PNA's enhanced self-confidence and determination to use its armed power to enforce its authority. Yet both sides demonstrated restraint, with Hamas expressing willingness to open a dialogue with the PNA. Pointing to Israel as the cause to the violent clash between them, and to common concerns such as "the homeland, Jerusalem, the [Palestinian] prisoners [Jewish] settlements," provided both the PNA and Hamas a pretext to rid themselves of the embarrassment and demonstrate unity.

Indeed, the fear of being shunned aside by the PNA urged elements within Hamas to advocate participation in the emerging Palestinian bureaucracy and elections to the PNA Council. Adversely, antagonists raised arguments that emphasized the movement's authenticity and adherence to original goals as a shield from erosion and containment by the central authority. Hamas' vacillation between these two approaches has been clearly reflected in its leadership's debate over means and strategies ever since September 1993.

The cumulative effect of the internal debate within Hamas indicated its growing tendency to discern between an attitude toward the "objective" namely, Israel, and the perception of actual situations.23 On the declarative level, expressed toward the objective, Hamas adhered to its intransigent rejection of Israel's legitimacy, maintaining that the solution to the conflict is a Palestinian Islamic state "from the river to the sea," that is, Palestine in its Mandatory borders. Yet strictly adhering to this attitude could paralyze Hamas' political maneuverability and force it to fight the PNA or give away its claim to provide an alternative normative and political frame of reference to the existing order. It is here where the attitude to "actual situations," revealing political realism and recognition of practical constraints which led Hamas to express willingness to adopt the traditional Islamic concept of truce (hudna) with the infidels, in return to a Palestinian state on part of historic Palestine. Under such terms, a dialogue with Israel was not precluded by Hamas political leadership.24

By interpreting any political agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip as merely a pause on the historic road of Jihad, Hamas achieved political flexibility without loosing its ideological credibility. Having adopted the strategy of phases, Hamas was ready to acquiesce in the Oslo process without recognizing Israel; to support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip without ending the state of war or renounce its ultimate goals, to consider restrain, but not to give up the armed struggle, relating it to uncontrolled groups, making a distinction between "political" and "military" wings within the movement, or claiming the right to launch operations from areas under Israel's rule.

Hamas' willingness to acquiesce in a political settlement with Israel on a temporary basis, that is, without compromising its ultimate goals, enabled it to consolidate a working formula of coexistence with the PNA. This inclination was expressed in establishing joint ad hoc conciliation forums with Fatah as well as committees on national concerns such as the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Hamas' willingness to maintain a negotiated coexistence with the PNA was reciprocated by the latter on grounds of cost benefit calculations despite Arafat's efforts to weaken, divide, and coopt Hamas into its authority, his cautious policy has also reflected preference of dialogue over head-on collision. Since neither could sustain the price of full-fledged attempt to eliminate the other, both sides preferred cautious acquiescence in the other's existence, refraining from risking their public legitimacy in case of a major showdown. It was more promising for each side to concentrate on improving its positions and to beef up its bargaining ability vis-a-vis the other side, instead of pursuing an "all or nothing" policy to advance ultimate political goals.

1. Hamas' Charter, article 27; 'Hadha Huwa Ra'yuna fi Munazamat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniyya," Filastin al-Moslima, May 1990, p· 8; "Hamas, Hadath Abir Am Badil Da'im?," al-Sawa'id al-Ramiya-Sawt al-Haraka al-lslamiyya fil-Watan al-Mohtal, March 1990, p. 9.

2. Wahdat al-Sat ... Matlab Islami Thamin," Sawt al-Aqsa, January 1, 1990 (reproduced in al-Sabil, January 31, 1990; 'Na'am lil-Wahda al-Wataniyya .. Walakin," Filastin al-Muslima, July 1990, pp. 25-26; Hamas' leaflet, October 24, 1991, ibid., p. 31.

3. Yedioth Aharonoth (Tel Aviv), September 16, 1988.

4. Shaikh Ahmad Yasin to Al-Sirat (Publication of the Islamic Movement in Israel), April 10, 1989.

5. Yedioth Aharonoth, September 16, 1988.

6. Mu'tamar 'Ulama' Filastin,'Fatwa al-Musharaka fi Mu'tamar Madrid wal-Sulh Ma'a Isra'il," Jerusalem, November 11991.

7. Leaflet, 'Bayan lil-Tarikh ... La Limu'tamar Bay' Filastin wa-Bayt al-Maqdis, September 23, 1991; leaflet, "Fatwa al-Musharaka fi Mu'tamar Madrid wal-Sulh Ma'a Isra'il," November 1, 1991.

8. 'Abd al-Sattar Qasim, Ayyam fi Mu'taqal al-Nagab, Lajnat al-Difa ''An al-Thaqafa al-Wataniyya al-Filastiniyya, Jerusalem, 1989, p. 98.

9. A joint Fatah-Hamas leaflet (n.d.), reproduced in Filastin al-Muslima, October 1990, p. 4; Ziyad Abu Ghanima, "Mithaq al-Sharaf Bayn Hamas wa-Fatah Bariqat Amal Sha'bina ... wa-Saf'a li-'Aduwwina," al-Dustur (Jordan), September 24, 1990.

10. On the PLO-Hamas contention, see 'Hadha Ra'yuna fi Munazamat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniyya," Filastin al-Muslima, May 1990, p. 8;'Likay la Tadi' al-Haqiqa: Radduna 'Ala 'al-Hamasiyyin" Filastin al-Thawra, July 8, 1990;'Qira'a fi Radd Hamas 'Ala al-Musharaka fi al-Majlis al-Watani," Fialstin al-Muslima, July 1990. See also Shaikh Ahmad Yasin's interview, al-Mukhtar al-Islami (Egypt), May 1989.

11. Hamas leaflets no. 77, 81, 85, 87, 88, 89, August 3, 1991-July 5, 1992; Mahmud al-Zahar to al-Sharq al-Awsat, July 17, 1992, p. 8.

12. Arafat to Algiers Voice of Palestine, January 14, , FBIS, January 15, 1993, p. 9; and interview to al-Ra'i (Jordan), November 30, 1992, p. 12, FBIS, November 30, p. 6; See Muhammad Nazzal's response, al-Sharp al-Awsat, December 30, 1992, p. 5, FBIS, January 5, 1993, p. 4; Ha'aretz, November 11, 1992.

13. Al-Watan al-'Arabi, January 1, 1993; PLO Memorandum: 'Al-Hiwar Ma'a Hamas, summarizing the PLO-Hamas talks in Tunis, December 24, 1992.

14. Al-Hayat, December 24, 1992; Ha’aretz, December 21, 1992; January 21, 1993; al-Watan al-'Arabi, January 1, 1993, p. 16-21.

15. Hamas' delegation was comprised of the head of the political bureau Musa Abu Mazuq, Hamas spokesmen Ibrahim Ghawsha, the official representatives in Iran and Jordan, 'Imad al-'Alami and Muhammad Nazzal, respectively, and two senior members of the Islamic movement in Jordan.

16. Al-Watan al-'Arabi, January 1, 1993.

17. Al-Quds, February 2, 1993; al-Sharg al-Awsat, December 30, 1992, p. 5, FBIS, January 5, 1993, p. 4.

18. Al-Quds (Jerusalem), September 13, 1993.

19. Ali al-Jarbawi, 'The Position of Palestinian Islamists on the Palestine - Israel Accord" The Muslim World Vol. 84, 1-2 (1994), pp. 144-153.

20. The pattern of a clash of interest between the local Palestinian factor and the PLO tacitly assisted by Israelis not unfamiliar in the history of the Occupied Territories since 1967. It occurred in early 1982 between the 'National Guidance Committee" on the one hand, and the PLO, leading to the dismantling of the former. The same pattern repeated itself in the way Israel and the PLO tackled the local grass-root leadership of the uprising.

21. Al-Risala (Hamas' internal organ), April 21, 1994.

22. Al-Wasel, November i4, 1994; June 28, 1995, p. 22.

23. More on this distinction, see Milton Rokeach, "Attitude Change and Behavioral Change," Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 30 (1966-67), pp. 529-550.

24. Al-Waset, November 14, 1994, p. 16.

The Politics of Calculated Participation

Hamas' approach of neither full acceptance of the PNA's legitimacy nor its total rejection has been apparent in the movement's internal debate and actual behavior concerning the issue of participation in the PNA's executive and representative institutions. Hamas' need to ensure its survivability and continued growth made necessary access to power and resources. On the other hand, Hamas had vested interest to minimize the damage to its political stature as a result of its participation in the PNA, which might be interpreted as deviation from core Islamic values.

Much of Hamas' approach towards this issue can be described in terms of a differentiation between participation through direct and official presence and participation through political involvement in the PNA's representative and decision-making institutions. Taking into account Hamas' refusal to recognize the PNA, an involvement in its acting administrative apparatuses without an official presence and direct representation would provide useful means to minimize the disadvantages of the existing post-Oslo processes without paying the political cost of its endorsement. Moreover, involvement would serve as a safety valve for Hamas, reducing the threats to its continued activity and public support.

Yet involvement without an official presence entails a great uncertainty: it may provide political safety in the short-run, but it is exposed to threats of instability in the long-run. Presence, on the other hand, increases stability and continuity of resource allocation for the long run but it may lead to a renouncement or reduction to a minimum Hamas' public rejection of Oslo and legitimization of the political and legal status of the PNA. Given the growing conviction among both Palestinian and Israelis that the Oslo process is irreversible, the more the PNA tightens its grip on the society, the more intense becomes the debate within Hamas regarding participation in the PNA's executive institutions. It is here one should look in order to understand how Hamas tried to cope with the dilemma of participation by adopting a strategy which combined elements of political involvement with mechanisms of indirect presence. Nowhere has this strategy of participation found better expression than in the issue of the general elections to the PNA's Council, the issue of incorporation to the PNA's administration, and the establishment of political party to run in the elections.

Participation Through Unofficial Presence: Elections to the PNA's Council
Hamas as a movement could not exceed its own barrier and participate in the Palestinian general elections which were perceived by many locals as well as by foreign observers as a vote of faith in the Oslo accords. The elections took place on January 20, 1996, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including the Palestinians of East Jerusalem). The elections were based on the DOP of September 13, 1993, (known as Oslo 1) and on the September 1995 Israeli-Palestinian agreement (known as Oslo 2). According to the Interim agreement:

1. in order to enable the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to govern themselves in keeping with democratic principles, general, direct and free political elections will be held for the Council, under agreed-upon international supervision: the Palestinian police will care for public order.

2. The parties will reach an agreement upon the definite form of the elections and its conditions... in order to hold the elections within a period which shall not be more than nine months after the Agreement of Principles goes into effect.

3. These elections will be an important preparatory step towards the attainment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and its just demands.1

In accordance with the interim agreement, elections for the president of the PNA were held simultaneously with those for the members of the Palestinian council, using separate ballots. Participation was open to all Palestinians, 18 years of age and above, who lived in their electoral district and whose names were on the voters' rolls. Candidacy for membership in the Assembly was open to every Palestinian who was 30 years of age or older on election day.

Election of the members of the Council took place through regional elections, with the voters voting personally and directly for the candidates who had presented candidacies in their district. Even in cases where the candidate was presented by a party list, or a joint ad hoc list formed for the elections, the voter could indicate the candidate he or she preferred among those on the list. Every voter had the right to vote for a number of candidates equal to the number of seats allotted to the district, and was allowed to support candidates from different lists. The winning candidates were those who received the largest number of votes in the polls.

Though the elections were personal, as voters elected candidates individually by name and not as part of a list of candidates, the system permitted movements, parties, and individuals to organize and present joint lists from which the voter could choose the candidates he or she preferred. Of the 725 candidates, 559 were independent candidates, who ran on the basis of their previous activities, personal wealth, or their relationship to one of the larger clans in a specific district. One hundred sixty-six candidates were represented on electoral lists, 36 of them on new lists that had been established as the elections approached, and 130 represented pre-existing movements and parties.2

Hamas' position regarding the elections was tightly linked to two main issues: First, the political program of the PNA, that is, the grand policy with which Hamas would be identified by virtue participating in elections that were bound to legitimize the PNA and implicitly the principles of the DOP. Second, Hamas prospects to play a significant political role within the PNA. While Hamas adhered to its fierce rejection of the "shameful and humiliating accord," it effectively gave the impression that the debate within the movement had remained undecided or that it deliberately meant to keep all options open to ensure maximum benefit from future opportunities. despite an initial decision to boycott the elections, Shaikh Yasin announced shortly afterwards that Hamas would possibly participate in the elections, but not if they were to legitimize the PNA which was not recognized or supported by Hamas.3

Yasin's statement reflected a broadly supported position within Hamas local constituency. Participation, according to this position, was the lesser evil and could serve as a guarantee against an attempt to eliminate Hamas under circumstances of strong domestic and international support for the PNA. Yet an opposite viewpoint maintained that such participation would cost Hamas a loss of credibility and would be tantamount to political suicide as it would blur the dividing lines between Hamas and the PNA. Worse, it might denote acceptance of the Oslo process by Hamas.4

By and large, the pros and cons were divided along regional lines. Due to the PNA's tighter control of Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders there were relatively more favorable to the participation in the elections compared to the West Bankers. It is also this Gaza leadership which revealed willingness to enter into negotiations with the PNA over this issue, without consent of the outside leadership. In addition to the regional division, differences within Hamas apparently derived from socio-economic gaps as well. In the Hamas-PNA meeting in Khartoum in early November 1995 the former's delegates, all from the autonomous Palestinian areas, were not conspicuous political leaders in Hamas but in fact loose members, representing a wealthy group of merchants in the movement. They expressed positive attitude toward participation in the elections, contrary to many of Hamas leading figures, especially outside the autonomy territory, as well as rank and file, who identified the elections with the Oslo accords.5

In late October 1995, following the release of Hamas prisoners, a leading supporter of Hamas' participation in the elections explained that the movement's eventual decision would be conditional on certain assurances: "We want to be convinced that any Palestinian parliament will be free. The elections must be independently planned and formulated by the Palestinians without any Israeli interference. And we insist that all unresolved questions must be up for discussion - though we refuse, by any way, any Israeli preconditions on the status of Jerusalem.6

In mid-November Hamas announced its official decision to boycott the elections to the PNA Council, though not actively, explaining that the movement was not against the principle of elections but against the dissatisfactory terms of the Oslo accords, especially Israel's insufficient withdrawal from the occupied territories and the inadequacy of the election law. However, Hamas made it clear that its boycott was not meant to prevent indirect participation, stating that "we have repeated the call to our members and to adherents of the Islamic block to register their names on the electoral roll."7

Hamas' decision to refrain from official participation in the elections remained unchanged in the talks held in Cairo between its delegates and the PNA representatives. Hamas' attitude represented a long and indecisive debate with which the movement's leadership had been entangled since the Oslo agreement, and the weakening of the Islamic block following eighteen months of PNA rule. Apart from Hamas' proclaimed reasons for boycotting the elections there was the continued imprisonment of the movement's leaders, including Yasin and Rantisi (by Israel), and Abu Marzuq (by the US Government), which a priori strengthened the militant voice of the outside leadership.

Hamas, however, called on its followers to fulfill their individual right to vote for Muslim candidates who had been associated or maintained good relations with it. This motion represented realistic approach, recognizing the strong public excitement about fulfilling this unprecedented roll. Under these circumstances, if it called for a boycott and people voted anyway, it would lose all esteem. Furthermore, the registration lists for the general elections were to be used to determine the eligible electorate for the future municipal elections in which Hamas would be sure to take part officially, as it had no implications on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Like the Palestinian Islamic movement in Israel and in some of the neighboring Arab countries, Hamas was fully aware of the opportunity to have an official representation in the PNA Council by committed Islamist individuals, thus preserving the ideological image of Hamas intact.

By adopting a strategy of participation through unofficial presence in the elections Hamas was able to urge its supporters to take part in the elections and to help the arriving to the ballots. Hamas effectively led its followers to vote for the seven candidates whom the movement was eager to support as close adherents and of whom six were elected. Also, Hamas supported several independents, and even a number of Fatah candidates known for their good relations with the Islamic opposition.8 The strategy of participation through unofficial presence also dictated Hamas' behavior on incorporation of its members in the PNA's executive apparatuses. Similarly to its attitude toward participation in the elections, Hamas encouraged its adherents to join personally the PNA's administrative organizations. Hamas justified this motion by discerning between two perceptions of the PNA namely, as a sovereign political power, and as an administrative apparatus designated to provide services to the populace. While the former represented political principles and national symbols, the latter was perceived instrumental, linked to reality.

From the outset, Hamas' position toward the PNA's institutions was marked by an attempt to differentiate between the political and the executive levels. Thus, while Hamas' line of propaganda elaborated on ways of discreditation and delegitimization of the PNA's leadership, it was cautious not to alienate the rank and file within the PNA administration. This approach and the PNA's anticipated policy of preferring coexistence over confrontation with Hamas, brought the latter already in October 1993 to instruct its adherents to refrain from creating a hostile atmosphere against the Palestinian police officers. On the contrary, these policeofficers were to be encouraged to collaborate with Hamas armed activities against Israel and even to "initiate suicidal actions ... exploiting their possibilities of [available] weapons, and freedom of maneuver to support the resistance."9 Hamas encouraged its members to fill official positions in the religious establishment in the West Bank, explaining that these positions had been administrative, providing services to the community, without representative significance.10 Thus, by reducing the significance of participation in the PNA's administration to the individual level and executive aspects, Hamas could benignly portray such participation as unofficial, with no political or symbolic meaning. "If the Islamists [directly] participate in the government it would mean that they have become part of it, and would not be able to return to the slogan that Islam is the solution."11

Presence Through Proxy: Establishing a Political Party

The initiative of establishing a political party began looming in Hamas circles in September 1993, with the earliest rumors about the anticipated agreement between Israel and the PLO. According to one of the figures who stood behind this idea, Fakhri 'Abd al-latif, the Oslo agreement obliged Hamas to consider a new political strategy in which a legal party could better serve the Islamic movement's interests and preserve its achievements.12

The party was not meant to replace Hamas and its armed struggle against Israel but rather to attain three main goals:

A. Providing a countrywide political umbrella for those Palestinians who identify themselves with the Islamic vision. As such, the Islamic party was to focus on general Islamist values and goals, primarily the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine, without including antagonideological elements toward Israel. Such a party could attract wider circles than strictly those supporting Hamas. The Islamic party was meant to play a pivotal role in the relations between the public and the PNA, and to work in coexistence with the latter in order to erode the "negative effects" of the accords with Israel; to build a civic society, base on the Islamic law (shari'a), providing social and economic services to the public.

B. Ridding Hamas of the dilemma which it had been confronted by the elections. Hamas could neither participate in the elections nor boycott them without paying a political price. While participation meant an indirect legitimization of the Oslo process and harm to the movement's ideological reputation, boycott of the elections meant political isolation, and loss of influence on future relations between the PNA and Israel. The party could legitimize the Oslo process without "staining" Hamas or directly committing it to the party's platform and policies.

C. Serving as a major political framework for participation in elections to public organizations, such as municipal government, trade unions, and professional associations. Given its reputable record in providing communal services Hamas leaders expected to gain wide public support especially in the elections to local government. Taking over the sphere of local government was particularly attractive as it has been perceived as involving no essential significance such as shaping the basic ideas and values of the Palestinian state to be and its future relations with Israel. Thus, according to one of Hamas' leaders, Mahmud al-Zahar, an establishment of a political party and its participation in the elections for the Palestinian council would not legitimize the PNA just as Hamas' previous participation in elections of professional and social associations had not legitimized the Israeli occupation.13

Although the initiative of establishing an Islamic party faced objection from Hamas' outside leaders (who had been waging a power struggle with the PNA), in mid-November 1995, Arafat confirmed the foundation of The National Islamic Salvation Party (hizb al-khalas al-watani al-islami). Following the announcement, Arafat met with its registered founders who were all well known figures in the Gaza Strip. The founders announced that they were not linked to any existing political body. The new party's spokesman, Fakhri 'Abd al-Latif, admitted that the party and Hamas derived from the same ideas. Yet, each of them was structurally independent. He also revealed that the new party's political bureau was comprised of members of Hamas though this was not the case with all the founders.14

A month before the elections the new party still had not officially announced its participation, apparently because of the delay in the political talks between Hamas and the PNA. Other reasons underpinning the reluctance to participate in the elections, apart from the rejection of the Oslo accord, were the party's unreadiness for the elections and insufficient time for preparations, and the limited power allotted to the Council. At a massive rally in Gaza on its eighth anniversary, in mid-December 1995, Hamas's leaders officially announced that the movement would not take part in the elections on grounds that the "Oslo elections" would not guarantee the Palestinian rights for sovereignty and a state for the Palestinian people. Yet they repeated their commitment to avoid infighting and contribute its share to the building of a civic and secured society, through dialogue with the PNA. Hamas decision not to participate in the elections was announced again at the Cairo talks, yet it was implied that candidates identified with Hamas-understood as the newly established National Islamic Salvation Party--would take part.15

With the closing of registration of candidates to the elections, it was clear that the National Islamic Salvation Party would not take an official part in the elections, leaving the arena to Fatah and its two marginal political partners: the People's Party (previously the Communist Party) and FDA (Palestinian Democratic Union).

Analytically speaking the abstention of the Islamic party from participation in the elections derived from a combination of internal and external causes. Certainly the timing and system of the elections were designed to provide Arafat an advantage. These circumstances apparently provided Hamas' "outside" leadership with strong pretext to reject participation of an Islamic party in the elections, beyond its initial concern lest such participation would strengthen the "inside" leadership. Furthermore, given the symbolic significance of the elections, the anticipation of decisive victory of Arafat and Fatah would have present Hamas as a marginal movement. Such a victory could diminish Hamas' bargaining position with the PNA, and encourage the latter to take further steps to reduce Hamas' public influence.

Huntington distinguishes three methods by which a regime can manipulate an election so as to favor itself; by setting the timing of the elections; by establishing electoral systems highly favorable to itself, harassing and intimidating the opposition, and employing government resources in the campaign; and by outright fraud and theft.16 In recent Palestinian elections, Arafat engaged in at least the first two, if not all three of these techniques.17 Arafat appointed his long-time confidant and Fatah member Sa'ib 'Ariqat to head the Central Election Commission that was to pass the electoral law and oversee the elections. The commission set the election date for January 20, the day before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. If the elections were held after Ramadan, Hamas would have had a chance to reach the masses through the daily prayers but mainly through its the charity and welfare committees which would encourage them to vote for the Islamic Party. Thus, the Palestinian vote serves as a good example of how the elections may be strategically set for the benefit of one party.18 In addition, the Legislative Council of the 88 members was elected through majoritarian first-past-the-post elections in 16 districts. Three districts were single member, while 13 were multimember. Six seats were reserved for Christian candidates and one for a Samaritan candidate. Candidates could run as individuals or as members of a party, though voters could split their tickets across parties. Voters were allotted an equal number of votes as slots from their district. For example, a voter in Gaza City had 12 votes, each of which he was to designate for one candidate, and he could choose to divide his vote among candidates from different parties. With polls a month before the election showing Fatah running at 40-45% and Hamas at 15%.19 Arafat must have known that a majoritarian system would greatly favor his party. If the polls were correct, a proportional system would have required Arafat to share power with 13 or so Islamic Council members. Moreover, employing multi-member districts further favored Arafat party since, as Lijphart writes,

All majoritarian systems tend to systematically favor the larger parties, to produce disproportional election outcomes, and to discourage multipartism. District magnitudes larger than .. tend to reinforce these tendencies.20 Indeed, as early as November, Islamist leader Jamal Salim argued, "because it is based on a system of majority rule, and not proportional representation, the system will effectively exclude a large number of popular political forces from participating."21

Not only did the electoral system itself benefit Arafat, but so did the conduct of the campaign. The Central Election Commission was appointed only a few weeks before the vote, and it announced new arrangements up to the last few days. Even the district boundaries were in flux up to the last moments.22 Furthermore, the official campaign period was reduced to just over two weeks from the planned 22 days, a measly amount of time for an election in which 725 candidates ran for office. One of the only well-known campaign rules was that political speeches forbidden in mosques, a clear attempt to hinder Hamas' chances of success if it decided to participate.23 There were also reports Palestinian police patrolled the streets at night tearing down posters for any non-Fatah candidates.24 Some observers noted that if all these advantages were not enough, the presence of at least three PNA policemen at every polling station would probably help persuade Palestinians to vote for Arafat and Fatah.25

The absence of Hamas-based Islamic party in the elections might indicate the major considerations determining Hamas' political behavior in the context of political participation in PNA institutions. The fear lest a rejection of any cooperation with the PNA would cause the movement an irreversible damage and that participation might be interpreted as an act of legitimization of the Oslo process, obliged Hamas to opt for unofficial participation. Such mode of participation was subject to three considerations:

* Whether it might produce a positive result for Hamas, or at least a tolerable one which would secure its achievements and bargaining position.
* The extent of being perceived as an instrumental act with significance of recognition of the
* PNA.
* The probability of winning the support of the movement's leadership, both "inside" and "outside" the homeland.

It is here one should look to understand Hamas' decision to encourage its adherents to vote in the elections and support the candidates identified with Hamas as individuals, not as members of a party. In the same vein, Hamas encouraged its members to join the PNA's executive instruments, but not to fill any position with political significance. In both cases the chance of scoring gains without paying a tangible in symbolic terms seemed possible and the likelihood of an accord, or consent, on Hamas leadership' "inside" and "outside", were perceived high.

1. State of Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaze Strip (Jerusalem 1995).

2. As'ad Ghanem, " Founding Elections in Transitional Period: The First Palestinian General Elections," Middle East Journal, Vol. 50, 4(1996), pp. 4-8.

3. Filastin al-Moslima, November 1993, p. 7.

4. Jarbawi, pp. 152-153.

5. Biladi - The Jerusalem Times, October 27, 1995; News from within, Vol 11, November 1995, pp.17-19.

6. Quoted from al-Watan's editorial, by Imad Faluji, Biladi - The Jerusalem Times, October 27, 1995.

7. Biladi - The Jerusalem Times, November 17, 1995, p. 2.

8. Biladi - The Jerusalem Times, January 26, 1996.

9. Hamas' internal circular: 'Siyasat wa-Madamin al-Khitab al-l'lami lil-Marhala al-Qadima (Ithra Ittifaq Ghazza-Ariha)," October 28, 1993.

10. Al-Quds, October 2, 1994.

11. Interview with Rabi' 'Aql, a senior activist of Hamas, Sawt ai-Haq wal-Huriyya, December 3, 1993.

12. Interview (by 'Amira Ness) with Fakhri 'Abd al-Latif, Ha'arez, December 17, 1995.

13 Interview (by 'Amira Ness) with Fakhri 'Abd al-Latif, Ha'arez, December 17, 1995; ibid., December 20, 1995.

14. Ha'aretz, November 24, 1995; December 17, 1995.

15. Na'aretz, December ·17, 20, 1995.

16. Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave, Norman, Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991, pp. 182-186.

17. The following analysis regarding the methods by which Arafat was able to manipulate the Palestinian elections is based on Adir Waldman, 'Democratic Opposition in Palestine," Seminar Paper, Department of Political Science, Yale University, 1996.

18. "Peace Monitor", Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. ?, p. 106.

19. Graham Usher ,"Arafat's Opening", New Statesman & Society, Vol. 8, no. 381, December 1, 1995, p. 25.

20. Arend Lijphart, Election Systems and Party Systems, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 20. 21.

21. Usher, ibid.

22. Martin Peretz, "Global Vision," The New Republic, January 22, 1996, p. 12.

23. Ethan Eisenberg, "Democracy in Gaza: An Election Diary," Congress Monthly, Vol. 63, 2 (March-April 1996), p. 9.

24. Shyam Bhatia, 'Vote Arafat for Dictator, " The Observer, January 14, 1996, P. 21.

25. Ehud Ya'ari, "Victory of Sorts," The Jerusalem Report, Vol. VI, no. 19, January 25, 1996, p. 25.

The Politics of Adjustment: Opportunities and Constraints

Politics of adjustment became the main feature of Hamas' political conduct. Strategies of controlled violence, negotiated coexistence and calculated participation, all reflected Hamas' effort to avoid decision over its conflicting commitments to all-Islamic and Palestinian national ideology, and to communal interests of survival as a social and political movement. While the former commitment determined a strategy of confrontation with Israel, the PLO and the PNA, the latter obliged Hamas to undertake adjustment to the changing of circumstances, and acquiescence in the political reality.

Hamas' strategies represented a balance based on neither full acceptance nor total rejection of the political order emanating from the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords and the establishment of the PNA. While Hamas refused to officially recognize the basic assumptions and consequences of the peace process it practically refrained from total confrontation with the emerging new political order created by the PNA- Israeli diplomacy. While Hamas' discourse represents a growing tendency to entrench in its ideological premises and long-term goal of establishing an alternative social and moral order, it demonstrated a de-facto acquiescence with the current political circumstances. And while Hamas strives to preserve its image as a highly doctrinaire and activist movement, it demonstrated awareness to the changing circumstances and considerable ability to adjust itself to the new reality. Thus, Hamas continued to adhere to the armed struggle as the sole strategy of national liberation from the Israeli occupation, without precluding the possibility of its indirect incorporation in the new Palestinian political order. Hamas refused to accord legitimacy to the PNA and yet recognized it as a fait accompli; it rejected Israel's right of existence and yet manifested pragmatism by willingness to tolerate coexistence based on temporary settlements.

In a cost-benefit analysis Hamas' politics of adjustment carried discernible advantages at a minimum organizational and ideological price. The politics of adjustment protected Hamas from being marginalized as a result of a dogmatic adherence to maximalist goals, ignoring the far reaching changes Israel Palestinian relations. At the same time, it prevented a head-on collision with Israel and the PNA which could have brought to the movement demise. Indeed, in Hamas' viewpoint there have been enough incentives to adhere to the strategy of political adjustment.

Yet however persuasive the argument for preserving its pragmatic modes of action is, one cannot exclude the possibility that under certain circumstances Hamas may adopt a policy of confrontation with either or both Israel Hamas might adhere to its pragmatic and the PNA. To what extent might turn to intransigent violence? Apart from the surrounding circumstances, this question must examine Hamas' structural features and organizational tenets which effected its modes of political thinking, shaped its conduct, and influenced Hamas' strategic choices.

Strategies of Action and Structural Features
Hamas' ability to adopt pragmatic strategies of political adjustment was due to its ability to bridge the gap between contradicting considerations of practical needs and ideological principles, representing its dual commitment to both social and religio-nationalist values. As a movement self-perceived as the sole moral and political alternative to the existing order, Hamas has to maintain its radical image, identified with a strategy of violent confrontation, which distinguished it from other Palestinian political movements. Yet as a social movement Hamas must have taken into consideration existential issues of "here and now". As such, Hamas could not but develop political maneuverability despite its radical Islamic and national vision and its claim to materialize this vision through violent means.

Hamas was able to bridge the gap between its ideological commitments and pragmatic consideration as long as it managed to justify pragmatic moves by normative terms, and to be engaged in pragmatic initiatives that carry tolerable organizational risks. Hamas' institutional and structural characteristics, however, indicate that the movement suffers from intrinsic limitations in ensuring a viable basis of support for strategies of political adjustment. If Hamas succeeded in adopting pragmatic modes of action without being exposed to blames of deviation from core Islamic and Palestinian nationalist norms, it was a result of external constellation and prevailing conditions in the surrounding political environment, rather than of its own institutional capabilities.

The Nature of Intra-Organizational Structure
Similarly to other social movements and political organizations, much of Hamas inter- and intra-organizational nature of activities is based on hierarchical structure and inter-personal relations. Yet, what stands out in the case of Hamas is the tension that prevails between the movement's formal and informal elements. That is, between the religio-national ideology and the communal needs, as well as the tension emanating from the power struggle between outside and inside Hamas' leaders and institutions.

The foundation of Hamas as an Islamic and Palestinian nationalist movement at the beginning of the Intifada, was accompanied by in institutionalization and territorialization processes. Hamas' quest for the establishment of an Islamic state on the entire Mandatory Palestine as an alternative to the PLO's two-states solution, and the adoption of a military strategy against Israel, obliged the movement to develop formally-based institutional capabilities in both the civilian and military spheres.

The record of Hamas' civil and violent activities during the Intifada indicated a growing awareness of the need to underpin those activities on principles of formal organizational structure Hamas' growing activity within the populace in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, amidst competition with the United National Command (UNC) and confrontation with Israel, obliged it to undergo an organizational effort to reduce internal complexity, avoid conflicting commands and concentrate control in long these lines, Hamas endeavored to create organizational infrastructure based on horizontally and vertically tasks. Vertically, linkage of positions is based on hierarchical chain of commands, instructions that go down and compliance reports that go up, and control through supervisors with limited number of subordinated while every subordinate has one clearly identified supervisor to whom he is responsible. Horizontally, various tasks supposed to be grouped according to functions performed for the organization.1

The organizational infrastructure built by Hamas was meant to operate in accordance with the principles of bureaucratic hierarchy. This infrastructure included the security, military, civil activity, and Islamic preaching (da'wa) apparatuses. These four apparatuses operated at as separate regional headquarters for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In addition to this functional division there was also a vertical division according to geographic units with a leading figure responsible for every unit. The Gaza Strip was divided into seven districts of activity. The West Bank was divided into five districts: Jenin, Nablus, Tul Karm, Ramallah and Hebron. Every district was divided into sub-districts which were further divided into villages or refugee camps. At the regional level there were also committees on education, publications, finance and prisoners.2

During the Intifada Hamas' hierarchical structure faced difficulties due to Israel's repressive measures of detainment and deportation. Israel's activity was directed especially against senior figures of Hamas which weakened the higher and middle level of leadership in the occupied territories. Under these circumstances two main organizational trends developed:

* Hamas' political leadership moved to neighboring Arab states (mainly Jordan), emulating other Palestinian activist groups in terms of between "outside" headquarters and the "inside" basis of activity.
* Grass-root leaders, representing young, militant, and charismatic activists, attained growing authority and freedom of action within their local constituencies.

This trend toward decentralization was often reflected by local initiatives which had exceeded--and sometimes contradicted--the policy and instructions of the overall political leadership. This was particularly evident in the case of execution of people suspected as collaborators with Israel or being religiously immoral. The growing stature of the local leadership underlined the organic elements in Hamas' structure. Along this line:

* Tasks defined more "through the interaction of [local] members than ... by the organization's top leaders.
* Decisions were driven more by "interaction among peers than strictly by hierarchical authority and control."
* Commitment of local activists is more "to performing tasks and fulfilling responsibilities effectively [...] rather than to blind loyalty and obedience to superiors."3

The organic nature of local activities led sometimes to dramatic results, reflecting disproportion between the low hierarchical status of the activists and the outcome of their non-authorized initiatives. What prevented a grave organizational disharmony between the outside and inside leaders from deteriorating into a total breakdown was its operational rather than ideological nature. As long as the Intifada continued and the expulsion of Israel from the occupied territories toped Hamas agenda, the differences and disputes between various levels of authority within the movement remained a matter of tactics rather than of principle.

Indeed, it was due to external political circumstances that during the Intifada Hamas' dilemma of radical vis-a-vis pragmatic motivations was not as critical as in the post-Oslo era. Thus, as long as Hamas was not obliged to adopt policies that might have been interpreted as a major deviation from the ideological position, there was little chance that the operational differences

would develop into a threat to the movement's organizational unity.

The militancy of the grass-root activists, the vacuum within the senior and middle ranks due to detainments and deportations, and the dependency on external funds, all brought to a growing influence of Hamas' leaders outside the territories on the movement's mainstay in Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The outside leaders, most of whom deportees from the occupied territories, sought to enhance their control over the movement. Moreover, in comparison to the inside, the members of this leadership represented a relatively young technocratic, militant and educated group with the vision of political Islamism, that is, a revolution from above, rather than with communal action. Since their militancy coincided with that of the rank and file's in the occupied territories, they helped the latter to reorganize the movement's activity following the massive arrests of 1989 in a hierarchical structure This initiative was designed to accord the "outside" leadership control over the "inside" and secure subordination of the latter's operational ranks.

Oslo and the Future of Hamas-PNA Relations
The establishment of the PNA in Gaza and Jericho in May 1994 threatened Hamas popular position as a whole but was of particular jeopardy for the "outside" leadership's domination over the movement in the PNA's controlled areas. Indeed, the growing penetration of the PNA within the Palestinian society in Gaza increased the tension between the "outside" leadership and Hamas' local leadership over the strategy of action in response to the newly established political order. The differences were particularly salient regarding the issue of establishing an Islamic political party and its participation in the elections to the PNA's Council.

The PNA's growing political control and discernible differences of opinion between the "inside" and "outside" leaderintensified the latter's effort to secure its influence within the movement through escalation of the military effort, driving a wedge between the military command and the "inside" political leadership. Along time, however, Israel's and the PNA's massive pressure on the movement and particularly on the military apparatuses weakened the "outside" control--based on normative interpretation, and material and organizational resources---over the local leadership. Under such circumstances the tension between the "outside" and "inside" leaders could be detrimental to the Hamas' organizational unity, risking the fragile coexistence between its two centers. In turn, such developments can deteriorate Hamas' ability to adopt politics of adjustment.

That Hamas managed to avoid organizational split and structural chaos was due to three main causes:

* The PNA's policy which, as a matter of tactics, preferred a dialogue and coexistence over confrontation with Hamas.
* Israel's withdrawn demand that the PNA dismantle Hamas as a whole and willingness to content with the PNA's preventive activity against radical Islamic terrorism.
* The temporary nature of the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords, leaving open key issues such as the future of Jewish settlements beyond the "green line," Jerusalem, borders and the final status of the Palestinian territory to be determined at the final settlement stage. The fact that Arafat repeated his commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as it's capital, helped bridging some of the gap between Hamas and the PNA pertaining to political goals of the peace process.

It's a Hamas' internal weakness, and Israel's approach to the peace process and to the role of Hamas in this context that turned the politics of adjustment to a preferable option to both centers of leadership within Hamas over other alternatives. A strategy of total confrontation on the part of the "outside" leadership, attempting to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo process, would have claimed high cost. . In the short-run uncontrolled violence against Israel and the PNA could achieve that goal. In the long-run however, it would have triggered violent retaliations on the part of both Israel and the PNA, further tightening of the closure by Israel of the autonomy areas, and a growing public resentment against Hamas which could effectively alienate its local, non-military leadership. Thus, a policy of total confrontation on Hamas' "outside" part could lead to strengthening the PNA position and the "inside" Hamas leaders.

On the part of the "inside" leaders, collaboration with the PNA or participation in its institutions to a point denoting PNA de-facto recognition of the PNA, in disregard of the "outside" leadership would have perhaps accorded the "inside" leaders satisfactory trade-offs. Yet it would have aroused a wide ressitance among the rank and file members, undermining the legitimacy of the inside leadership. Arguably, than despite the "outside" leadership control over resources and the military apparatus, as long as the vague nature of the permanent Israeli Palestinian settlement; and the PNA's tolerant policy toward Hamas sustain, it is probable that the movement will continue to adhere to the politics of adjustment as a guiding political strategy.

True, compared to other Islamic movements in the Arab countries Hamas has operated in a political arena characterized by limited self-governing authority and overall Israeli domination. This has resulted in an armed struggle for national liberation against Israel and a political struggle against the PNA, at the same time. One may argue that major changes in the given reality might question the feasibility and benefit of continued politics of adjustment by Hamas and its preference over other tactics. A rapid progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward the permanent settlement with clear-cut territorial, institutional, and economic gains for the Palestinian side would increase the PNA's chances to receive wider support from the Palestinian communities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In such scenario, Hamas' ability to enlist normative justification for continued coexistence with the PNA, as well as its capabilities of public action among the populace are expected to decrease, intensifying the differences both internally and with the PNA. Such development might lead to either or both possibilities of confrontation between Hamas and the PNA or split within Hamas, within the autonomy areas as well s between "inside" and "outside" leadership. On the other hand, stagnation or retreat of the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process would aggravate public frustration of the Palestinian public opinion, obliging the PNA to close ranks with Hamas and other radical opposition movements.

Still, given the complex Palestinian political arena, this study indicates that even under conditions of rapid progress toward a permanent settlement, Hamas would be most prudent not to reach the point of confrontation with the PNA. Hamas is reform more than revolutionary; more populist than avant-guard movement; more political than military; more communal than universalist. Hamas is aware of cost benefit considerations and has been markedly calculated in its decisions. Similarly, the PNA has demonstrated pragmatism over extremism and prose of reality over poetry of ideology. Hamas has been cognizant of its limitations, though without admitting it; anxious to preserve Palestinian national unity--hence its extreme sensitivity to public opinion-particularly in view of the PNA's volatile diplomatic process with Israel. Thus, one might assume that even under conditions of crisis in the PNA-Hamas relations, both sides would remain faithful to their insistence to prevent a total showdown. Admittedly, this insistence tends to increase under growing sentiments of hostility to Israel or a sense of threat on its part.

Various structural and cultural causes might reinforce Hamas-PNA coexistence. Unlike Arab revolutionary regimes such as of Syria, Iraq, and Algeria, the PNA assumes a traditional image with tolerance to Islamist elements. Unlike Syria or Iraq where the reigns of power are held by a religious minority group the Palestinian society as a whole is decisively Sunni. Above all, contrary to Syria and Iraq's policy of exclusion toward the Islamic opposition, the PNA's policy toward opposition movements has been markedly characterized by a policy of inclusion.

By and large this policy aims at coopting the opposition to minimize its effects on the decision-making process. The PNA's policy toward the Islamic opposition resembles the patterns of negotiated coexistence adopted by Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, toward the Islamic opposition. Under these circumstances a deterioration of the PNA-Hamas relations would be probably approached by the two parties more in terms of redefinition of their power relations rather than embarking on extreme strategic decision toward each other.

1. On features of formal structure of organizations and social movements see David Knoke, Political Networks, The Structural Perspective, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 75-76; 91-98.

2. Roni Shaked and Aviva Shabi, Hamas: Palestinian Islamic Fundamentalist Movement, Jerusalem, Keter, 1994, pp. 118; 124.

3. More on the features and activities of organic structure, see T. Burns & G. Stalker, The Management of Innovations, London, Tavistock, 1961, cited in Dennis A. Rodinelli, Development Projects as Policy experiments, London & New York, Routledge, 2nd Edition, 1993, p. 163.

About the Authors

Shaul Mishal is an associate professor of political science at Tel Aviv University and Director of the Institute for Israeli Arab Studies. He is the author of several books on the Palestinian society and politics. His most recent book is (with R. Aharoni) Speaking Stones: Communiques from the Palestinian Underground, Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 1994.

Avraham Sela is a senior lecturer of Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew

University of Jerusalem and research fellow in Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace. He is the author of several books on Palestinian and inter-Arab politics. His forthcoming book is The Decline of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Middle East Politics and the Quest for Regional Order, to be published by SUNY Press.