Hamas Elections: The Black Box

 

Hamas does not allow for reality to run its course, let alone the plight of the Gazan people. A decade after the Hamas terror organization took over the Gaza Strip and became responsible for the lives of the two million people living there, the movement insists it holds an “exemplary democratic process." However, the entire election, its process, and the voters are all kept confidential. What do Gazans really know about those ruling over them?    

Two weeks ago, the election results of the Hamas leadership were unofficially released in the Gaza Strip. At the center of things stood Yahya Sinwar, who was elected as head of Hamas in the Strip. Sinwar’s past, his positions and previous statements indicate that this election has had profound implications for the terror group’s activities and agenda. Yahya Sinwar, 55-years old, received four life sentences from Israeli courts for devising terror attacks in 1988 and was released in the “Shalit Deal” in 2011. During his imprisonment in Israel, he served as the leader of prisoners on behalf of Hamas. In 2015, Sinwar was appointed the head of negotiations for prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel. Immediately following his release from prison, Sinwar returned to the Gaza Strip and began to call on Hamas’ military wing to perform military operations similar to that of Shalit’s abduction in order to negotiate the release of more Palestinian prisoners.   

 

Video- Sinwar's return to the Gaza Strip, October 2011

Like in the days when Hamas was “underground”, today when Hamas actually is in control of the Gaza Strip — the internal elections take place secretly, according to a process determined by a committee of the movement. The official results are not published to the public, even though Hamas claims that their elections are democratic. These type of elections are more suited to an underground terror organization rather than a “political party” who must look out for the two million residents living under its control. Gazans are completely excluded from the election process of those who stand in a position of power. Every aspect of the election, including the procedures, the identity of the voter and the electees are kept completely confidential. In a stark contrast to this, the “election process” is used as a democratic symbol by Hamas, and the leaders of the terror organization are proud of it. In a meeting between Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh, deputy leader of Hamas’ political wing, the two spoke proudly of the electoral process and about its “transparency”.

Despite the fact that the elections were held behind closed doors and did not involve most of the residents of Gaza, the elections hold massive implications for the future of Hamas and the residents of the Gaza Strip. Above all, these elections strengthened the extremist faction within Hamas. Sinwar and those close to him, such as Ruhi Mushtaha and Marawan Isa, are prominent radical members of Hamas’ military wing and are supporters of terrorism towards Israel. It can be assumed that the strengthening of the military wing will lead to more attempts of terror attacks against Israel and will lead to more tension between Hamas and Fatah.

Strengthening Hamas’ radical wing will lead to a greater investment in its terror activities and preparation for campaigns against Israel. The decisions regarding future military conflicts will be in accordance with the wills of the radical faction of Hamas, and the potential for inflammability in situations will be faster and less calculated. The rise of the military wing has lead to attempts to strengthen ties with Iran in order to receive weapons and funds for terror activities against Israel, and to expand training initiatives and movement between the Islamic Republic. The expansion and rise of the military wing comes at the expense of the civilian industries in the Strip. More and more of Gaza’s resources will be directed towards funding and equipping Hamas’ military wing, and it will impair the daily lives and activities of Gaza residents.

Furthermore, the results of the elections foretell the crucial role of Hamas’ military wing in formulating a strategy in the Gaza Strip for the coming years. Due to Muhammad Deif’s close ties with Sinwar, Sinwar and the military wing are now believed to have more impact when it comes to making decisions about the future of the Gaza Strip and Hamas terror organization. Sinwar’s radical views and extremist methods have been gaining more traction in the Strip, as well as within Hamas. A firm example is the recent execution of a Hamas commander, Mahmoud Ishtiwi, who was a political opponent of Sinwar and whose case was covered extensively in the link here.   

The negative consequences of this “underground” manner which Hamas refuses to get rid of is not a theoretical scenario, it is the current reality. This was demonstrated through Suhail al-Hindi, Chairman of the Palestinian Workers Association at UNRWA in Gaza, who was also chosen for the political bureau of Hamas. Al-Hindi was suspended from the agency after he lied and denied any involvement in the election or in the Hamas terror organization. This event was also reviewed at length on our site, and the event is already threatening the position of vital external aid to UNRWA. The situation demonstrates that Hamas does not hesitate to gamble on the income and lives of tens of thousands of Gazan residents working for UNRWA. This ideal “democracy” of Hamas will end with a severe cut for the activities of UNRWA in which more than half of Gazan residents depend upon.

The strengthening of Hamas’ radical leadership, expanding of the military wing, warming relations with Iran and neglecting areas of life for the civilians under Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip – it seems that these results are part of the consequences of the Hamas-led election; this will bring upon extensive repercussions for the residents of the Gaza Strip. That being the case, it is peculiar that the process of the election it is being kept confidential. A small portion of Gazan residents took part in this process and were given the opportunity to influence these results. The rest of Gaza’s residents, the vast majority, were forced to accept the election results as a decision of fate, and leaves them with the fear that these “black box” elections will turn into a pandora’s box.