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Hamas Leader in Lebanon Calls for Democratic Palestinian Elections When War Ends

In an interview with Mondoweiss, Hamas official Osama Hamdan outlined the group’s vision for the future.

Hamas leader in Lebanon Osama Hamdan speaks during a rally at a stadium in Beirut, Lebanon, on February 1, 2009.

While the U.S. and other Western governments are discussing the prospect of installing an alternative administration over the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the current Israeli assault, possibly with the Palestinian Authority at its helm, Hamas is now launching its own alternative vision regarding Gaza’s postwar reality.

This vision includes holding democratic Palestinian elections the day after the war and was shared in a wide-ranging interview with Osama Hamdan, the senior representative of Hamas in Lebanon. Speaking to Mondoweiss, Hamdan emphasized the importance of Palestinian self-determination in the aftermath of the current assault on Gaza, in addition to several other topics, including Hamas’s demands before reentering negotiations on a prisoner exchange, the resistance group’s motivation for Operation “Al Aqsa Flood,” and how regional politics have been reshaped in the wake of the October 7 attack.

Democratic Elections for Palestinian Leadership

Following the fighting in Gaza, Hamdan says that efforts must be made to “rebuild the internal Palestinian house.”

“Given the sacrifices of the Palestinian people, they deserve a leadership committed to resistance and the ultimate goal of liberating Palestine and returning the refugees,” Hamdan told Mondoweiss. “With a variety of tools at our disposal, the ideal scenario involves one in which the Palestinian people elect their own leaders. We trust our people to consistently choose resistance. The ideal next-day scenario for Hamas is a national Palestinian election.”

This call for democratic elections marks the first clear statement calling for an intra-Palestinian political process since the start of the war, calling for the breakup of the status quo of indefinite rule by a single party.

“Every party aspiring to lead must be held accountable,” Hamdan continued. “If they are successful, they will be validated by the people’s vote; if they fail, they will face judgment at the polls. It is not certain that Hamas will always win. The election of any party by the people, in a fair and democratic process, should be respected by all as the will of the Palestinian people.”

For years, Israel has asserted that the lack of a unified and legitimate Palestinian leadership has been a major barrier to reaching a political solution — meaning that Israel has always had a vested interest in perpetuating Palestinian disunity. In this way, Hamas’s proposal can be seen as a way of putting political pressure on Israel while asserting Hamas’s continued political presence in the Palestinian arena.

“The prospect for Palestinian unity is now promising,” Hamdan said. “First, the resistance is actively confronting the occupation, reinforcing the idea that resistance is the sole viable solution. Meanwhile, the occupation disregards the PA, treating it as non-existent, and is directly engaged in Gaza. Thus, all parties are in conflict with the occupation, providing common ground for unity.”

“Second, the sacrifices made by the Palestinian people place a duty on everyone,” Hamdan continued. “Those lacking national responsibility will overlook this bloodshed, but those with national interests will acknowledge these massacres and work to end Palestinian division. Third, the strategy of supporting Israel to dominate Palestinians’ realities is losing ground. Currently, there’s a shift in discourse towards a Palestinian state, albeit on a portion of our historical land, which we believe wholly belongs to us.”

Most notable in Hamdan’s position is the emphasis on the need for a Palestinian state on a portion of historic Palestine, even if it does not mean the total liberation of all of Palestine. Yet his political rhetoric seems to reflect a willingness to accept such a political entity, whether within the framework of a long-term truce or as a temporary arrangement.

“Achieving this requires Palestinian unity, an opportunity we must grasp to resolve our division. We firmly believe this is a genuine chance for unity. We hope those who long favored compromise will now adopt this logic.”

However, Hamdan also emphasized that “we don’t discuss [the issue of] unity with the PA, but with the broader Palestinian political forces and factions. The PA is an institution that emerged under specific conditions, distinct from the factions that represent segments of the Palestinian populace. It’s undeniable that every active Palestinian faction has its supporters; otherwise, it would have vanished from our political landscape.”

In doing so, Hamdan recognized the political legitimacy of the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank, as well as the other Palestinian political factions and forces.

No Negotiations Until Aggression Ends, Siege Lifted

After over ten weeks of Israel’s onslaught against the people of Gaza and the Palestinian factions in the beleaguered enclave, Hamas continues to firmly reject Israel’s latest offer of another temporary humanitarian truce in return for the release of a number of Israeli prisoners. This rejection is consistent with Palestinian demands since hostilities resumed after the end of the first temporary ceasefire, as has been voiced by several Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) senior leaders.

Talking with Mondoweiss, Hamdan made clear that any talk of the release of Israeli prisoners will not resume before the end of the Israeli war on Gaza.

“It is premature to discuss resuming negotiations,” Hamdan said. “Discussing the details of prisoner negotiations is currently too early. The initial step requires an end to the Israeli aggression on Gaza, lifting the siege, and beginning the reconstruction process. Only then can we consider our next steps.”

Hamdan’s statement marks the first instance of the explicit demand for an end to the siege and the initiation of the reconstruction of Gaza as a precondition for restarting talks.

Motivations for October 7, Reactions to International Response

Hamdan also asserted the reason for the “Al-Aqsa Flood” Operation was to reinsert Palestinians into the regional discourse over the future of Palestine.

Hamdan articulated that the October 7 attacks by Hamas were not isolated incidents but a response to broader geopolitical dynamics. He emphasized that the European and U.S. alignment with Israeli actions contributed to a sense of abandonment among Palestinians, exacerbating their plight under occupation and oppression. This feeling was intensified by the muted international reaction to the policies of the extreme right-wing Israeli government towards Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. According to Hamdan, these factors collectively contributed to a lack of political prospects for Palestinians and were key reasons behind Hamas’s decision to carry out the attack.

“Some people believe that the attacks were carried out mainly to cripple the normalization efforts between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli government, and this is an exaggeration,” Hamdan explained. “The reason was the rise of an extreme right-wing religious Zionist government that has effectively tried to end the Palestinian issue by implementing a comprehensive plan that erases every aspect of the cause of the Palestinian people.”

“This development was met with silence and even support from the United States and Europe,” Hamdan elaborated. “Consequently, there was a necessity for significant action, not only to bring the Palestinian issue back to the spotlight but to reestablish it as a struggle of a people seeking their own liberation and self-determination at its core. This was the reason for the extensive nature of the action, aiming to reposition the Palestinian cause to its rightful and natural place in the discourse.”

“The attempt to represent it as hostility…towards Saudi Arabia is a misrepresentation as if it is a conflict within the region’s own people,” Hamdan asserted. “The peril of normalization lies in the effort to sidestep the Palestinian issue, and reinstating this issue…will significantly affect related projects. However, it is an overstatement to claim that the resistance initiated the operation solely to halt normalization.”

Moreover, Hamdan asserted that if October 7 undermined normalization, “it indicates that normalization was not the appropriate course of action.” In other words, normalization, in Hamdan’s view, “represents an unnatural behavior, highlighting that the occupation is unstable and unreliable.”

While Hamdan welcomed the protests across Europe, the movement remains realistic about their impact, acknowledging that such demonstrations, while shaping public opinion, likely will not prompt strategic changes in government policies toward Israel. Nonetheless, Hamdan believes these protests could play a role in shaping how governments approach and manage the conflict. This is evidenced by how some European governments have revised their stances with respect to a ceasefire, which could be attributed to the public outcry against Israeli actions in Gaza.

Regional Dynamics

In addressing the region’s dynamics, the Hamas movement has noted a complex evolution in the official Arab response, influenced by many factors that have continued to shift positions. Hamdan points out that initially, some states were swayed by the U.S. narrative of the events of October 7, but that the severity of Israeli actions and the discussion of the potential expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza acted as critical catalysts for change.

Hamdan believes that the “change in the Arab world’s official stance was primarily driven by the resilience of the resistance and, secondly, by the haunting memories of the Palestinian expulsion in 1948 — a historical event that led to the start of the armed struggle.”

“Such memories resonate deeply with neighboring countries, who no longer wish to face similar situations,” Hamdan clarifies. “The possibility of policies that might lead to another expulsion of Palestinians is a red line for these nations. We appreciate that their governments have resisted any efforts that would facilitate such expulsions.”

He further observes a positive shift in the Arab stance, which he regards as a welcome change from “the explicit opposition of some states to the resistance during the 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza.” This reflects an increasingly evolving and nuanced response of different regional actors to the situation in Gaza.

Discussing the relationship between the movement and Hezbollah, Osama Hamdan affirmed the strategic connection between the two groups, recognizing Hezbollah’s significant support in southern Lebanon for the Gaza front.

“While some expected more from Hezbollah, and we appreciate such high expectations placed on the party, we understand that they operate within specific circumstances,” Hamdan noted. “Nevertheless, Hezbollah has managed to create a sense of uncertainty for the U.S. and Israeli governments, implying that escalation could occur at any moment. The Israeli army faces the apprehension of potential conflicts erupting in the north while engaging in Gaza.”

“Another critical aspect was the infiltration into occupied Palestine by Palestinians from Hamas and Islamic Jihad based in Lebanon,” Hamdan added. “Though the impact was minimal, it sent a powerful message: the resistance in Lebanon is actively committed to upholding the right of refugees to return to their homeland and to work toward this goal. This is a significant message, and while its current impact might be limited, I believe it will substantially influence the future trajectory of the conflict.”

Hamdan also commended Qatar’s role in mediating the conflict, praising Qatar’s professionalism and impartiality. He emphasized Qatar’s effectiveness in conveying positions and facilitating dialogue, highlighting their resistance to external influences. Specifically, he appreciated how Qatari mediators, along with their Egyptian counterparts, addressed Israeli violations during ceasefires and understood Hamas’s stance, especially when Hamas rejected certain Israeli proposals. Hamdan noted that the Qatari mediators did not exert undue pressure on Hamas and maintained a balanced approach, focusing on dialogue and future prospects without yielding to Israeli or American preferences.

Palestinian Self-Determination

In the ongoing war in Gaza, the Israeli government is likely to transition to a strategy characterized by “surgical,” low-intensity combat operations. Amid these tactical shifts, a significant question remains regarding Gaza’s future, a question that Hamas, unlike Israel and the U.S., seems prepared to answer with a definitive approach: advocating for democratic elections. This proposal happens to align with the universally recognized principles of Palestinian self-determination.

More importantly, Hamas’s rhetoric now shows a clear push for restarting the Palestinian national movement within the framework of elections and national unity, which it clearly views as important for maximizing the political outcomes of the war.

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