by Daniel Siryoti
As the campaign for a "March of Return" went on and the extent of Iran's involvement in Gaza became clear, Palestinians began to distance themselves from the Hamas-organized protests on the border.
Hamas has failed. Of this, there can be no doubt. For nine weeks, the organization that rules the Gaza Strip has enabled a "March of Return" on the border with Israel, setting new goals for hundreds of thousands of Gazans to attend the weekly procession. But from Land Day to Nakba Day and throughout the month of Ramadan to the planned march on Naksa Day, which was postponed in favor of Quds Day, Hamas has demonstrated to just what extent it lacks any strategic political plan.
It seems that even when Hamas succeeds in bringing the issue of Gaza to the world's attention, the organization's leaders make it clear not only to the moderate Arab states that once supported them but to the Gazans themselves that they prefer money and weapons to any improvement in the humanitarian situation there.
Hamas has only itself to blame. The terrorist organization is undergoing a process of "Iranization," to the chagrin of Sunni Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Persian Gulf states. Those countries still support the Palestinian terror group in principle, but their diplomatic policies are evidence they are distancing themselves farther and farther from the group the more Hamas is sucked into the Iranian honey trap.
Hamas will not admit their "March of Return" has been a failure, and despite the declarations from the organization's political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar and others of Gazans "breaking the siege," senior officials in Gaza agree the organization's leadership needs to stop and set a new course.
The attempt by Hamas' current leadership to use funding from Iran to create a Palestinian version of Hezbollah first in Gaza and later the West Bank is completely unacceptable not only to the leaders of moderate Sunni Arab states who fear Iranian hegemony and Tehran's attempts to establish itself across the Middle East, and as a result have increased cooperation with Israel but to a majority of the Sunni Arab and Palestinian public. In the eyes of certain members of the Arab public and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Sunni Hamas' decision to join Shiite Iran and Hezbollah is nothing short of blasphemous.
Does the Hamas leadership understand the consequences of their actions? Not necessarily. Hamas' political bureau no longer has the internal political clout it did when Khaled Mashaal headed the organization.
Senior Hamas officials now admit that Mashaal's successor Haniyeh is having difficulty restoring the influence once wielded by his predecessor. This is due in large part to the fact he is operating from within Gaza and not from abroad as Mashaal did and the visible dominance of his second-in-command Saleh Arouri, who operates out of Lebanon and Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, who both embrace Iran's influence.
Many in Hamas admit the failure of the "March of Return" is directly related to Iran's sway. As the campaign went on, and the extent of Iranian involvement in Gaza became clear, the Palestinian public began to distance itself from Hamas' attempts to enlist the masses in the mass protests and support among Arab states declined. For Haniyeh, Arouri and Sinwar, this failure should be a warning sign.
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