US embassy cable - 99TELAVIV12144

HAMAS DEBATES FUTURE

Identifier: 99TELAVIV12144
Wikileaks: View 99TELAVIV12144 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tel Aviv
Created: 1999-08-27 06:42:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KISL PTER KPAL KWBG PREL PHUM GZ IS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 270642Z AUG 99
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2566
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 012144 
 
DEPT FOR NEA, NEA/IAI, AND SMEC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/26/09 
TAGS: KISL, PTER, KPAL, KWBG, PREL, PHUM, GZ, IS 
SUBJECT: HAMAS DEBATES FUTURE 
 
REF: TEL AVIV 10899 AND PREVIOUS 
 
 
SUMMARY: 
-------- 
 
1.  (C) OUR CONTACTS IN GAZA HAVE PRESENTED DIFFERING 
VIEWS OVER NEXT STEPS BEING CONTEMPLATED BY HAMAS.  A 
SENIOR FATAH LEADER AND MEMBER OF THE FATAH CENTRAL 
COMMITTEE, HANI AL-HASSAN, TOLD US RECENTLY THAT HAMAS 
WAS PLANNING AN "ELECTION" FOR MEMBERS OF ITS POLITBURO 
AND CONSULTATIVE ASSEMBLY.  AL-HASSAN SAID HE WAS 
SEEKING TO INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION, WHICH, 
HE SAID, WOULD PIT OUTSIDERS AGAINST INSIDERS.  AL- 
HASSAN SAID HE FEARD THAT HAMAS COULD SPLIT FOLLOWING 
THE ELECTION, LEAVING THE MORE RADICAL ELEMENT OF HAMAS 
IN UNCERTAIN HANDS.  BY CONTRAST, ISLAMIST WEEKLY "AL- 
RISALLAH" EDITOR GHAZI HAMAD, TOLD US THAT WHILE HAMAS 
IS INDEED DEBATING ITS FUTURE, NO ELECTION WILL BE 
HELD IN THE NEAR TERM.  HAMAD SAID HAMAS FACED INTERNAL 
DIFFICULTIES AND SAID THAT YASIN WAS FACING A "HEAVY 
BURDEN" TO ATTEMPTING TO MANTAIN UNITY AND INFLUENCE 
HIS ORGANIZATION'S FUTURE COURSE.  BOTH HAMAD AND AL- 
HASSAN SAID THEY DID NOT FORESEE "MILITARY OPERATIONS" 
IN THE NEAR TERM, ALTHOUGH THEY OFFERED DIFFERENT 
REASONS FOR THEIR VIEWS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
AL-HASSAN: GET READY FOR SEPTEMBER 19 
------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C) EMBASSY CONTACTS IN GAZA HAVE PROVIDED DIFFERING 
VIEWS OF HAMAS' NEAR-TERM STRATEGY.  HANI AL-HASSAN, A 
MEMBER OF THE FATAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE WHO HAS MAINTAINED 
CLOSE LINKS TO PALESTINIAN ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS THROUGH 
HIS FORMER MEMBERSHIP IN THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, 
EXPRESSED CONCERN TO US THAT HAMAS FACED A SPLIT IN 
THEIR ORGANIZATION.  AL-HASSAN SAID HAMAS WAS PLANNING 
TO HOLD AN ELECTION ON SEPTEMBER 19 FOR ITS POLITBURO 
AND MAJLIS SHURA (CONSULATIVE ASSEMBLY). (COMMENT: OTHER 
AGENCY REPORTS INDICATE THAT THE SEPTEMBER 19TH DATE HAS 
ALREADY SLIPPED, PERHAPS AS FAR BACK AS DECEMBER.  DELAY 
UNTIL DECEMBER MAY PLACE THE ELECTIONS NEAR 
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2ND PHASE OF WYE, POSSIBLY NOT A 
PROPITIOUS TIME FOR AN ELECTION FROM HAMAS' POINT OF 
VIEW IF THINGS ARE GOING WELL IN THE PEACE PROCESS. 
PLACE OF THE ELECTION IS NOT KNOWN.  END COMMENT.)  THE 
ELECTION WOULD PIT KHALID MISH'AL AGAINST ABU MARZOUK 
FOR THE HEAD OF THE POLITBURO.  AL-HASSAN SAID HE WAS 
WORKING UNDER ARAFAT'S ORDERS TO INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME 
OF THE ELECTION AND TO PREVENT A SPLIT IN HAMAS THAT 
COULD LEAVE THE RADICALS WITHOUT THE MORE "MODERATE" 
POLITICAL CONTROL OF SHEIKH YASIN.  "IRAN WILL GAN THE 
UPPER HAND," AL-HASSAN SAID IF THERE IS A SPLIT IN THE 
ORGANIZATION.  (COMMENT:  AL-HASSAN'S COMMENTS RUN 
COUNTER TO THE POLICY TH PA HAS BEEN TELLING US THEY 
ARE FOLLOWING TOWARD HAMAS, I.E., O SPLIT OFF THE 
MODERATES, ISOLATE THE RADICALS AND MOVE AGAINST THEM. 
END COMMENT.) 
 
MISH'AL LEADS THE CHARGE AGAINST YASIN 
-------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) ACCORDING TO AL-HASSAN, THE KEY DYNAMIC INSIDE 
HAMAS WAS AN EFFORT BY KHALID MISH'AL TO SEIZE CONTROL 
OF THE PARTY FROM YASIN.  AT THE ELECTION, YASIN WILL 
TRY TO PUSH FORWARD A CHANGE TO HAMAS' OPERATING 
PROCEDURES THAT WOULD REQUIRE EXPLICIT BLESSINGS OF THE 
INSIDE LEADERSHIP BEFORE CONDUCTING "OPERATIONS." 
(COMMENT: WE DO NOT SEE THE LOGIC OF SUCH A MOVE.  WHILE 
ON ITS FACE, IT MIGHT GIVE YASIN GREATER SPECIFIC 
AUTHORITY TO CONTROL "OPERATIONS," THERE IS A CLEAR 
DOWNSIDE. IF KNOWN, IT WOULD EXPLICITLY TIE THE INSIDE 
LEADERSHIP TO ANY FUTURE TERRORIST OPERATION AND LEAD TO 
AN EVEN HEAVIER CRACKDOWN AGAINST HAMAS OPERATIVES IN 
AREAS UNDER PA CONTROL.)  AL-HASSAN SAID THAT THE 
MISH'AL FACTION CURRENTLY ENJOYS A TWO-PERSON ADVANTAGE 
IN THE POLITBURO.  YASIN WAS CONTEMPLAING SENDING 
MAHMOUD ZAHHAR AND POSSIBLY ISMAIL ABU SHANAB TO 
INFLUENCE HAMAS MEMBERS IN THE GULF AND ELSEWHERE TO 
SUPPORT YASIN IN THE ELECTION.  (COMMENT: PERHAPS THE 
USG FACES A TERMINOLOGICAL PROBLEM IN REFERRING TO 
"INSIDERS" AND "OUTSIDERS."  WE TEND TO THINK OF 
OUTSIDERS AS BEING MORE HARDLINE AND CLOSER TO THE 
MISH'AL POSITION.  IN FACT, IF WHAT AL-HASSAN SAYS IS 
TRUE, YASIN BELIEVES HE CAN INFLUENCE THE OSTENSIBLY 
"OUTSIDER" VOTE TO SUPPORT HIS MORE "MODERATE" 
POSITION.) 
 
AL-HASSAN ON WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT 
------------------------------------ 
 
4.  (C) SPEAKING ABOUT VARIOUS HAMAS PERSONALITIES, AL- 
HASSAN SAID THAT MAHMOUD ZAHHAR IS CLOSELY TRUSTED BY 
YASIN.  IN THE WEST BANK, YASIN RELIES ON JAMAL MANSOUR 
FROM NABLUS.  AL-HASSAN SAID THAT FUGITIVE MOHAMMED DEIF 
WAS STILL AN IMPORTANT MEMBER OF HAMAS, BUT FOLLOWED 
ORDERS FROM YASIN WHO, ACCORDING TO AL-HASSAN, IS 
AGAINST "OPERATIONS" AT THIS TIME.  DIF IS VERY 
INTELLIGENT AND AL-HASSAN SAID HE WAS CONTINUALLY 
CUTTING OFF CONTACT WITH THOSE WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO LEAD 
THE PA TO HIM.  AL-HASSAN ALSO SAID THAT SAID BAREKAT, 
FORMERLY OF THE PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD (PIJ), IS 
INCREASINGLY INCLINED TO ACCEPT THE PEACE POCESS AND IS 
NOW ACTIVE IN A GROUP FOUNDED BY AL-HASSAN THAT HAS MET 
WITH ISRAELIS IN THE PAST.  AMONG OTHER PIJ MEMBERS, AL- 
HASSAN CHARACTERIZED SHELLAH AS "NOT A REAL FIGHTER" AND 
SAID THAT RAMADAN "COULD BE EASILY BOUGHT OFF." 
 
HAMAD: NO ELECTIONS 
------------------- 
 
5.  (C) ALTHOUGH HAMAD AGREED THAT HAMAS IS FACING SOME 
DIFFICULT DECISIONS, HE SAID THERE WERE NO PLANS TO HOLD 
ELECTIONS.  UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, HAMAD SAID, AN 
ELECTION WOULD MERELY FOCUS ATTENTION ON THE DIVISIONS 
WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION AND WAS THEREFORE UNWISE.  HAMAS 
IS FACING THE SAME ISSUES IT HAS BEEN CONSIDERING FOR 
THE PAST YEAR.  CHIEF AMONG THEM IS HAMAS' RELATIONSHIP 
WITH THE PA AND THE DEBATE OVER HOLDING "MILITARY 
OPERATIONS."  YASIN IS TRYING TO REPAIR THE BREACHES IN 
THE WALLS OF HAMAS UNITY AND FEELS INCREASINGLY THAT HE 
IS UNDER A HEAVY BURDEN.  YASIN, WHILE NOT RENOUNCING 
TERROR ATTACKS, WANTS TO MOVE HAMAS INTO A MORE PURELY 
POLITICAL DIRECTION. 
 
 
HAMAS' LONG-TERM STRATEGY 
------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) HAMAD SAID THAT PERSONALLY HE DID NOT FORESEE 
RENEWED TERRORIST ATTACKS, DESPITE CONTINUED CLAIMS OF 
HAMAS' ALLEGIANCE TO "ARMED STRUGGLE."  HAMAD ADDED THAT 
IT WAS DIFFICULT FOR HAMAS "TO REMAIN QUIET" IN THE FACE 
OF ARRESTS AND CONTINUED DETENTION OF THEIR MEMBERS. 
BUT IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, HAMAS UNDERSTOOD THE 
CRACKDOWNS THAT WOULD FOLLOW ANY ATTACKS WERE A HIGH 
PRICE TO PAY. 
 
7.  (C) POLITICALLY, HAMAD DISCOUNTED THE POSSIBILITY OF 
A SPLIT WITHIN HAMAS.  AS HAMAD HAS SAID IN THE PAST, 
HAMAS DIFFERS INTERNALLY ON THE QUESTION OF TACTICS, BUT 
REMAINED COMMITTED TO THE "IDEA OF HAMAS" (I.E., 
OPPOSITION TO OSLO AND TO ANY COMPROMISE ITH ISRAEL). 
HAMAD SAID THAT THE BASIC HAMAS STRATEGY WAS TO WAIT FOR 
THE PEACE PROCESS TO FAIL.  AT THAT POINT, IT WOULD NOT 
BE AN ISSUE OF HAMAS TAKING UP ARMED STRUGGLE ALONE, ALL 
PALESTINIANS WOULD TAKE UP ARMED STRUGGLE AND HAMAS 
WOULD BE THE BEST POSITIONED TO LEAD IT. 
 
HAMAD ON HAMAS PERSONALITIES 
---------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) HAMAD ALSO COMMENTED ON SOME HAMAS 
PERSONALITIES.  ON DEIF, HAMAD SAID THAT HE REMAINED 
"BELOVED" AMONG PALESTINIANS BECAUSE OF THE TOLL HE 
EXACTED FROM ISRAEL.  BUT HE CHARACTERIZED DEIF AS BEING 
"OUT OF THE PICTURE" FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS.  HAMAD ALSO 
SAID THAT RANTISSI, DESPITE HIS RE-ARREST, REMAINED VERY 
STRONG AND THAT TIME IN JAIL WOULD NOT DIMINISH HS 
STRENGTH. 
 
COMMENT: 
-------- 
 
9.  (C) ISRAELIS ARE WORRIED THAT THE RECENT UPSWING IN 
SMALL-SCALE OERATIONS PORTENDS A MUCH LARGER WAVE OF 
ATTACKS TO COME.  ACCORDING TO OUR INTERLOCUTORS IN 
GAZA, SUCH IS NOT THE CASE.  RATHER THEY POINT TO THE 
RE-ARREST OF RANTISSI, THE BRIEF INARCERATION OF ISMAIL 
ABU SHANAB, AND EVEN 12 HOURS HAMAD HIMSELF SPENT 
ENJOYING JIBALI'S HOSPITALITY AS EVIDENCES OF A PA 
CRACKDOWN.  (HAMAD WAS DETAINED AFTER HE QUOTED NEW PA 
ATTORNEY GENERAL ZOUHAIR SOURANI CRITICIZING THE STATE 
SECURITY COURTS.)  ALSO, PA OFFICIALS ARE QUTED IN THE 
ISRAELI MEDIA AS SAYING THEY HAVE DETAINED 90 HAMAS 
ACTIVISTS IN THE LAST FEW DAYS IN RESPONSE TO HAMAS 
ATTEMPTS TO ATTACK ISRAELIS.  ON TE QUESTION OF 
ELECTIONS, WE TEND TO CREDIT HAMAD.  HAMAS LEADERSHIP 
WOULD ALMOST CERTAINLY TRY TO WORK OUT DIFFERENCES 
PRIVATELY RATHER THAN ALLOW DIFFERENCES TO AIR IN ANY 
SORT OF SEMI-PUBLIC MANNER.  IF AND WHEN YASIN MANAGES 
TO SORT OUT THESE DIFFERENCES, AN ELECTION MIGHT SERVE 
HIS INTERESTS BY DEMONSTRATING HIS CONTINUING CONTROL 
OVER THE ORGANIZATION. 
 
SCHWARTZ 

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