On a July 8th APN webinar, Palestinian political analyst Khalil Shikaki made an alarming observation on the current state of affairs in Palestinian leadership. Referring to the dramatically changing balance of power and influence between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas' PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA), Shikaki spoke of a "paradigm shift," which is evident in his latest poll. Following is the relevant quote from Dr. Shikaki's talk. For the complete recording, please tune in to episode 197 of APN's PeaceCast.
"This is the first time in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Hamas assumes the role of representing and defending the interests of the entire Palestinian community. Hamas takes the lead in determining the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The public wants that. Hamas succeeds in presenting itself as a defender of the national interest. Up until now, the relationship between Hamas and Israel was restricted to the issue of Gaza. The siege. The blockade. Issues like that, where what Hamas was trying to trade with Israel was security for Israel in return for easing the siege or blockade over Gaza. Never before did Hamas take the lead away from the PA, from the PLO, from Abbas, in defending the interests of the Palestinians regarding Jerusalem and other issues that are of national interest. With (the Palestinian) public approval and with the public saying that Hamas deserves to be the representative and the leader of the Palestinian people in dealing with Israel and in confronting Israel. This is the perception that reflects the public view that Abbas has lost his ability (to lead and represent the Palestinians), that he lacks initiative, that the PA is not being responsive to changes on the ground, that Israel is able to do whatever it wants to do – whether settlements or changing the status quo in East Jerusalem and the holy places, and so on and so forth. Hamas is taking the lead in doing all of that… That is the public perception. The public is asking Hamas that it take on this responsibility… This is why it’s a paradigm shift, because if Hamas does want to do that, and if Hamas builds the capacity to do that, this will have fundamental consequences for Israeli-Palestinian relations."