US embassy cable - 96JERUSALEM3094

HAMAS BIDING ITS TIME

Identifier: 96JERUSALEM3094
Wikileaks: View 96JERUSALEM3094 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Jerusalem
Created: 1996-11-08 15:30:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KPAL KWBG KISL PTER
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 081530Z NOV 96
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1027
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L JERUSALEM 003094 
 
 
NEA FOR VERSTANDIG; SMEC FOR ROSS; INR FOR ENSLEY 
 
E.O. 12958:  DNG:  11/08/06 
TAGS: KPAL, KWBG, KISL, PTER 
SUBJECT: HAMAS BIDING ITS TIME 
 
1.  CLASSIFIED BY CONSUL GENERAL EDWARD G. ABINGTON, JR.  REASON 
1.5 (B) AND (D). 
 
2.  (C) BIR ZEIT UNIVERSITY POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR HISHAM 
AHMAD TOLD POLOFF THAT HAMAS IS LAYING LOW FOLLOWING CRACKDOWNS BY 
THE PA AND ISRAELI SECURITY AFTER TERRORIST ATTACKS EARLIER THIS 
YEAR.  IN HIS VIEW, HAMAS IS CURRENTLY BIDING ITS TIME AND WAITING 
FOR THE STREET TO BECOME FRUSTATED ENOUGH WITH THE CLOSURE AND LACK 
OF PROGRESS IN THE PEACE PROCESS TO, IF NOT WELCOME A RESUMPTION OF 
TERRORIST ATTACKS, AT LEAST "SYMPATHIZE" WITH THEM.  AHMAD BELIEVES 
A "HARDCORE" OF HAMAS OPERATIVES AND PLANNERS REMAIN TO GUIDE 
TERRORIST ATTACKS.  THE ORGANIZATION CONTINUES TO RECRUIT MEMBERS, 
DESPITE DAMAGE DONE TO ITS INFRASTRUCTURE DURING EARLIER 
CRACKDOWNS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
---------------------------- 
HAMAS LAYING LOW FOR NOW.... 
---------------------------- 
3.  (C) POLOFF MET WITH DR. HISHAM AHMAD, AN AMCIT BIR ZEIT 
POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, TO DISCUSS WEST BANK POLITICAL 
OPPOSITION GROUPS.  (NOTE: AHMAD IS THE AUTHOR OF THE 1994 PASSIA 
STUDY ON HAMAS ENTITLED "HAMAS: FROM RELIGIOUS SALVATION TO 
POLITICAL TRANSFORMATION: THE RISE OF HAMAS IN PALESTINIAN 
SOCIETY").  AHMAD TOLD POLOFF THAT HAMAS' LACK OF ACTIVISM DURING 
THE LATE SEPTEMBER ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CLASHES INDICATED ITS 
CURRENT STRATEGY OF LAYING LOW AND WAITING FOR POPULAR FRUSTRATION 
TO BUILD AS A NATURAL OUTGROWTH OF EVENTS ON THE GROUND.  HE SAID 
THAT HAMAS IS CONDUCTING ITS ACTIVITIES, SUCH AS RECRUITING AND 
MOBILIZING MEMBERS AND RUNNING ITS SOCIAL-WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS IN 
THE WEST BANK, IN A MORE LOW-KEY FASHION.  THIS IS A RESULT OF THE 
PA AND ISRAELI CRACKDOWNS ON ITS ORGANIZATION FOLLOWING SUICIDE 
BOMB ATTACKS EARLIER THIS YEAR AS WELL AS TO AVOID HARASSMENT FROM 
THE PA.  AHMAD OPINED THAT HAMAS CURRENTLY SEES NO NEED TO WHIP UP 
THE STREET BECAUSE IT IS ALREADY FRUSTRATED AND ON EDGE.  (COMMENT: 
THIS IS A TIME-HONORED TACTIC THAT HAMAS USES - TO LET THE PLO OR 
ISRAEL MAKE MISSTEPS OR CREATE CONDITIONS ON THE GROUND THAT 
FACILITATE HAMAS'S GOAL OF DISCREDITING THE PA AND THE PEACE 
PROCESS.  END COMMENT). 
 
------------------------------------------- 
...BUT STILL A LURKING THREAT OF TERRORISM 
------------------------------------------- 
4.  (C) AHMAD SAID THAT HE IS CONCERNED THAT HAMAS'S RELATIVE QUIET 
IS ONLY TEMPORARY AND THAT IT WILL RESUME ATTACKS AS POPULAR 
FRUSTRATION OVER LACK OF MOVEMENT IN THE PEACE PROCESS AND THE 
NETANYAHU GOVERNMENT'S POLICIES CONTINUE TO BUILD.  HE SAID THAT 
HAMAS TERRORIST OPERATIVES LEARNED THEIR LESSON FROM THE 
PALESTINIAN PUBLIC'S CONDEMNATION OF ITS TERRORIST ATTACKS IN 1995 
AND EARLY 1996 AND THE RESULTING HARDSHIP VISITED UPON THE 
PALESTINIANS THROUGH TIGHTENED ECONOMIC CLOSURES; THEIR OBJECTIVE 
NOW IS TO RESUME TERRORIST ATTACKS WHEN POPULAR FRUSTRATION BECOMES 
GREAT ENOUGH SO THAT THE PUBLIC WILL NOT CONDEMN SUCH A RESUMPTION. 
HE SAID THERE IS A "HARDCORE" OF HAMAS TERRORIST PLANNERS AND 
OPERATIVES IN PLACE.  (NOTE: LIKE OTHER CONGEN CONTACTS, AHMAD 
COULD NOT QUANTIFY OR SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFY THIS "CRITICAL MASS" OF 
PUBLIC DISCONTENT). 
 
------------------------------------------ 
EFFECTS OF CLOSURE AND CRACKDOWNS ON HAMAS 
------------------------------------------ 
5.  (C) IN RESPONSE TO POLOFF'S QUESTIONS, AHMAD SAID THAT HAMAS IS 
CONTINUING TO RECRUIT MEMBERS, ALTHOUGH THE CRACKDOWNS IN MARCH 
WEAKENED ITS INFRASTRUCTURE AND SOME HAMAS MEMBERS CRITICIZED THE 
ORGANIZATION'S RELATIVELY LACKLUSTER PERFORMANCE DURING THE 
SEPTEMBER CLASHES.  IN RESPONSE TO POLOFF'S QUESTION, AHMAD SAID 
THAT THE CLOSURE IS A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD FOR HAMAS: IT MAKES IT 
MORE DIFFICULT FOR HAMAS OPERATIVES TO PLAN AND EXECUTE TERRORIST 
ATTACKS, BUT THE CLOSURE AND ATTENDANT ECONOMIC HARDSHIP ARE 
DECREASING PATIENCE ON THE STREET AND INCREASING FRUSTRATION. 
 
6.  (C) AHMAD PREDICTED THAT ALLEVIATING THE SOURCES OF PALESTINIAN 
FRUSTRATION WOULD "PULL THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER HAMAS".  IF HAMAS 
WERE TO STAGE TERRORIST ATTACKS IN AN IMPROVED ECONOMIC AND 
POLITICAL CLIMATE, AHMAD PREDICTED THAT PUBLIC OPINION WOULD NOT 
SUPPORT HAMAS-INSPIRED VIOLENCE. 
 
7.  (C) COMMENT:  WHILE IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO DISCERN WHAT 
HAMAS'S SHADOWEY OPERATIONAL ELEMENTS ARE UP TO AND TO PREDICT 
THEIR FUTURE PLANS, AHMAD'S ANALYSIS SEEMS REASONABLE FROM OUR 
POINT OF VIEW.  A PRODUCT OF THE POLITICALLY ACTIVE DHEISHEH 
REFUGEE CAMP NEAR BETHLEHEM, AHMAD IS A CREDIBLE COMMENTATOR ON 
HAMAS THROUGH HIS ACADEMIC BACKGROUND AND HIS CONTACTS IN THE LOCAL 
COMMUNITY.  AS FRUSTRATED AS THE PALESTINIAN STREET IS, IT IS 
INTERESTING THAT AHMAD DID NOT FORESEE THAT HAMAS WOULD ENJOY A 
LARGE BOOST IN POPULARITY IF IT WERE TO RESUME TERRORIST ATTACKS. 
 
 
ABINGTON 

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