Cave in to Hamas and all Palestinians suffer

A victory for Hamas is a setback for Mahmoud Abbas.

The tragic events of the past week are creating renewed pressure for Israel and the international community to change its approach to the Gaza Strip. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is deeply concerning.

However, the dilemmas around dealing with the division in the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas regime in Gaza are not new, and not simple. The same problems have been plaguing both Israel and western governments since Hamas violently expelled Fatah forces from Gaza in 2007.

The goals are clear and shared by Israel, the west and pro-western Arab forces in the region: a unified Palestinian Authority under a leadership committed to negotiating a peaceful two-state solution.

The Quartet and Israel have both rightly been concerned to bolster the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is committed to the peace process, and draw support away from Hamas. Any international endorsement for the Hamas regime in Gaza threatens to embolden radicals in the region and their backers in Iran.

But how is the isolation of Hamas regime in Gaza to be achieved without the toll being taken on ordinary Palestinians in Gaza? Israel has not succeeded in finding the right formula, but neither have other governments.

For Israel, this issue has an added dimension.

Hamas is not only an organisation opposing the peace process and allied to Iran and other anti-western forces, it is a militia force that has waged a war of attrition with rockets against towns in southern Israel.

As a result, Israel treats Gaza under the rule of Hamas as enemy territory, and allows only basic humanitarian goods in. It blockades the coastline to stop Iran's shiploads of rockets, such as the Francop, which was captured by Israel last year, reaching Hamas.

The only other state with a border on to Gaza is Egypt, which views Hamas to be no less a threat to its own security. It has been refusing to open its border without Hamas first agreeing to a Palestinian unity agreement and new elections.

Israel's policy has had a very damaging affect on Gaza, but can Hamas expect to enjoy full co-operation from a state it has pledged to destroy?

Hamas must face the fact that no government in Gaza can deliver for the population there without co-operation from Israel.

This co-operation is open to Hamas if it recognises Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous peace agreements. If Hamas was ready to do this, the recent economic success in the West Bank would be bettered in the Gaza Strip, where there are no settlements, and no internal restrictions on movement.

Not only has Hamas failed to do this, it has failed to agree with the Palestinian Authority a date for new elections.

There is an understandable temptation at this stage simply to lean on Israel to relax its restrictions. However, the ramifications are wide. A victory for Hamas is a setback for Abbas, an already fragile leader. Now Abbas can credibly argue that his path of non-violence is delivering for the Palestinians in the West Bank where the Hamas path of intransigence has failed.

What will he say if the international community appears to be caving in to Hamas?

Lorna Fitzsimons is chief executive of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution