As a leader of Gaza-based Hamas, Meshal should have been leading his organization from Gaza, which is free of Israeli control, and work to improve the lives of the people of Gaza, which his organization has been controlling since 2007. Instead Meshal has opted to place himself in the mold of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat taking comfort in hoping from this Arab capital to one day replace Arafat as a “symbol” of the Palestinian struggle against Israel albeit with very little results.
Even though Meshal lacks the personal charisma Arafat enjoyed for over 40 years, which later proved to be a disastrous trait for Palestinians leaders, he might find the regional alignment in his favor, especially in Egypt and Iran, should he decide to pursue plans to lead the PLO later on.
In order to respond to overwhelming Israeli power Palestinians need political managers skilled in statecraft and clean-handed politicians, not charismatic leaders who will inevitably turn into corrupt dictators and stay in power for decades. Neither Meshal nor Abbas can be described as clean-handed or competent.
Palestinians, much like their Arab brethren in the Arab States have yet to produce the kind of leadership that will hold itself accountable to the people and to the law. This is perhaps one of the key differences between Israeli and Palestinians whereas Israelis were able to develop an able pool of diverse leaders who acted in the best interest of their state and citizens even before they established their state in 1948. Palestinians on the other hand were stuck with the same leaders for generations who led them from one disaster to another.
Meshal, who has been leading Hamas since the mid-nineties, might have come to see himself as a leader of all of the Palestinian people as part of larger strategy by Hamas to control the overall Palestinian leadership. This could be a plausible scenario given the deteriorating conditions within the Palestinian territories and the discredited leaders of the PA and the relentless Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Ever since its inception in 1987, Hamas has played the spoiler in the now defunct “peace process” and as a competitor to Fatah in its quest to lead the Palestinian people in their struggle to achieve their independence and end the Israeli occupation.
Helping Meshal in his goal is the rise of Islamic leaders in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab World who he sees as his natural allies and who obviously share his ideological background.
The problem with Meshal and Hamas, however, is that they behave much like other Palestinian organizations, past and present, by being beholden to the interests of their pay masters and political allies in Iran, Qatar, Egypt and Syria. Hamas’s continued control of Gaza strip and its refusal to relinquish its grip on power there is also part of a regional struggle that involved the same regional and international actors who pay money to both Hamas and the PA
Acting as pawns of other Arab states and its leaders has been the story of the Palestinian leaders even before 1948. Clan-based Palestinian leaders of the Husseini and Nashasheebi families of the 1930s and 40s were more consumed with fighting and plotting against each other than fighting off the British and the Zionists at that time. As a result they were caught off-guard and totally unprepared militarily and politically when Zionist leaders declared their state of Israel in 1948 in what was once Palestine.
Arab states meddling and corrupting the Palestinian leaders and organizations continued even when they founded the PLO to function on their behest against each other. Hamas is no different than other more secular organizations.
In July of 1967 a mere month after Arabs were defeated and lost the West Bank and Gaza along with Sinai and the Golan Heights, Israeli cabinet member Yigal Allon proposed the “Allon Plan” offering the Palestinians (then under the control of Jordan) autonomous populated areas within the West Bank and Gaza while Israel retained much of the West Bank and Jerusalem and overall military, political and economic control
The fact that both Hamas and Fatah organizations have resigned themselves, and fighting each other at the same time, to control different semi- autonomous parts of the West Bank and Gaza while remaining under an overall Israeli military, political and economic control — exactly like the “Allon Plan” — shows how shameless, irresponsible and incompetent those leader are. Palestinians simply deserve better leaders.
Ali Younes is a writer and analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at: [email protected] and on Twitter at @clearali.