Hamas post-Gaza war: Future scenarios and past parallels

When the guns finally fall silent in Gaza, we could see a rehabilitated Hamas, a new Israel, and the possible emergence of a 'new Middle East'.

Hamas post-Gaza war: Future scenarios and past parallels

Following the Gaza war, Hamas won't be the same. When the guns finally fall silent, we could see a rehabilitated Hamas, a new Israel, and the possible emergence of a 'new Middle East'. No single regional or international stakeholder will shape the outcome.

Beneath the surface lies a nuanced struggle between grassroots forces and proxies all orbiting the post-war landscape. None seek a return to the status quo of 6 October, and each player has a different understanding of the conditions that led up to October 7 and different priorities for the future.

The May issue of Al Majalla magazine features the future of Hamas after the 'day after' in Gaza as its cover story. Although Hamas and its Iranian ally started this current war, they won't be the only ones to have the final say. There are many options on the table for a rehabilitated Hamas, some of which have parallels in the history of the Palestinian armed struggle.

In the summer of 1982, Israeli forces encircled Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, in Beirut.

Arafat pledged a six-month resistance, but a series of diplomatic manoeuvres, including Soviet counsel, American intervention, Israeli assaults, and Syrian negotiations, culminated in his expulsion from Beirut to Tunisia in August 1982. This followed Arafat's earlier exile from Jordan to Lebanon following Black September in 1970.

Our cover story includes documents detailing Arafat's final days in Beirut, leading to his expulsion in August 1982.

Arafat was a guest in both Jordan and Lebanon, whereas Hamas is deeply entrenched in the Gaza landscape. While Arafat's resilience was short-lived, lasting only a few months, Hamas has endured for over six months despite the widespread devastation and bloodshed.

Unlike the diverse leftist factions within the Liberation Organisation, Hamas represents an Islamic movement. Arafat's exile marked a diminishing Soviet influence globally, whereas Hamas's resilience mirrors the continued assertiveness of Iranian interests in the region.

Indeed, while there are notable differences between the experiences of Arafat and Hamas, there are also significant parallels—especially in the dynamics shaped by Israeli decisions, Western involvement, and the roles played by Arab states.

Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, and Mohammed Deif, the commander of the Al-Qassam Brigades, are forced into exile.

Our cover story includes documents elucidating Arafat's final days in Beirut in 1982.

Another possibility is that Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas's political bureau, and his associates will leave Doha, just like Hamas leaders and Arafat had done in the past, before returning to the heart of the struggle. One possibility is that Hamas will be granted a "dignified exit" reminiscent of Arafat's experiences in 1970 and 1982.

Another option involves transitioning Hamas into a purely political party and integrating into the Palestine Liberation Organisation after disarming, akin to Arafat's shift away from violence and acceptance of pre-1967 borders, ultimately leading to the "Oslo Agreement" in 1993 and his return to the Palestinian territories.

Additionally, there are suggestions for deploying Arab forces to oversee security in post-war Gaza. This scenario finds its precedent in 1982 when the "Arab Deterrent Forces" absorbed Arafat and his forces in Beirut before Syrian forces took over in Lebanon until their withdrawal in 2005.

In addition to those scenarios, there's one linked to Tehran's regional strategy whereby Hamas would continue its "war of attrition" in Gaza. This scenario would mirror the strategy of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen.

They assert control over territory, mines, explosives, drones, and camps, yet they neglect to provide salaries, water, healthcare, or hospitals.

The scenario could result in the "suicidal option", where attrition persists based on regional calculations instead of Palestinian interests. In this scenario, Hamas would be seen purely as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood and a regional ally of Tehran, shaping its regional and global image and stature.

Hamas will likely persist to some extent as long as the Israeli occupation continues. The scenarios presented are based on the premise that Hamas cannot be completely defeated and that more extreme alternatives may arise.

The Gaza war may also drive up recruitment for Hamas. While the notion that "bullets cannot defeat ideas" is appealing, it oversimplifies the situation. Ideologies can evolve.

Some argue that even after military defeat and the loss of credibility, ideologies like Nazism and groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) persist, as there will always be members who cling to their ideologies. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, has endured despite efforts to dismantle it.

However, this does not imply that such ideologies and organisations cannot be managed and subdued so that they don't pose a serious threat to their surrounding society. Those who favour this approach want to see Hamas disarmed as a starting point.

Still, the determining factor for the future of Hamas and Gaza could depend on the intentions of both Iranian 'Supreme Leader' Ali Khamanei and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

We delve into these critical questions in our special coverage, while we also commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Nakba which led to the establishment of the State of Israel on May 15.

And, as always, Al Majalla will also feature an array of topical stories in culture, science, and economics, both locally and globally.

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