Other analysts say some of the group’s victory claims are exaggerated or that it’s too early to tell the long-term consequences for regional diplomacy.
On the ground, Israel’s recent eight-day bombing campaign in Gaza did wipe out Hamas weapons reserves and kill one of the group’s top strategists. The group’s violent resistance, firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, has done little but invite Israeli retaliation and has done nothing to advance Palestinian statehood. There’s only so much Hamas can ask of Egypt, which has enough domestic problems without rankling Israel or taking responsibility for Gaza. And the Saudis, who hold more sway with the Americans than other Gulf states, aren’t nearly as warm as the Qataris toward Hamas.
Perry, who still speaks to senior leaders of the group regularly, noted that Hamas also is still struggling with internal divisions between the Gaza-based faction that takes a harder line toward national reconciliation and regional diplomacy and the external leadership, which is seen as more pragmatic and willing to work with international partners.
Even with all those struggles, Hamas is still considered the stronger of the rival political camps. By contrast, Abbas is seen as yesterday’s man – all but silent during the Gaza offensive, unpopular even in the West Bank, and now undermined by his erstwhile American allies.
“Abbas is in dire shape. Even with all the external support, which is all he has, he’s on his last legs. His whole regime is on its last legs,” said Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab Studies at Columbia University in New York.
U.S. officials say they’re still keeping channels open with Abbas, despite what one State Department official put euphemistically as “some disagreement on tactics.” Senior American diplomats traveled to New York in a last-ditch effort to dissuade Abbas from Thursday’s appeal before the United Nations.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as per diplomatic protocol, said the United States would deal with Abbas as long as he’s the Palestinian Authority president, even though the administration considers his U.N. bid “a distraction” that’s only going to complicate efforts to get all sides back to the negotiating table.
As for Hamas, the official said, recognition would be withheld even if it won Palestinian elections, which it did in 2006, because of the group’s refusal to disavow violence or recognize Israel’s right to exist. U.S. officials aren’t likely to be swayed by Arab allies who argue that now is the time to push Hamas into the mainstream political fold.
“I don’t know if lobbing rockets into Israel is moving into the mainstream,” the official said dryly.