The Egyptians closed off the tunnels that Hamas used to smuggle goods into Gaza, tightened the blockade on the enclave, and enforced a total ban on the entry of Hamas members into Egypt, which severely curtailed the movement's ability to hold meetings and make decisions. In short, Hamas is in an unprecedentedly difficult situation.
In order to fully appreciate how difficult it is for Hamas, we have to recall that the latest developments occurred after Hamas lost its headquarters in Damascus as well as its strong alliance with the Syrian regime. This in turn led to the fracture of its alliances with Iran and Hizbollah. The political, moral, financial, and military assistance Hamas used to receive from the Iranians cannot be replaced by any other source.
And the current difficult situation appears set to continue as far as Hamas is concerned, especially after the recent agreements on Syria's chemical weapons, the Geneva-2 conference, and the Iranian nuclear program. This means that the need for Hamas is not as strong as it once was – which explains Iran's reluctance in responding to Hamas' requests to resume the alliance.
The picture does not become complete unless we mention that Hamas has also lost the most important attribute that caused its popularity to skyrocket since its inception on December 8th 1987: namely, that it is supposed to be a resistance movement whose aim is to liberate Palestine. Fateh had lost that status when it renounced violence, recognized Israel, and embarked on peace talks with the Jewish state.
Yet Hamas has ended up just as Fateh had: concentrating on political action and seeking Arab and international legitimacy with all the flexibility and concessions that entails. Thus, we saw Hamas take part in Palestinian elections in 2005 and 2006, and form its own government under the Oslo rubric. It also led a government of national unity in 2007, which was unable to function and eventually collapsed because of domestic, Israeli, Arab, regional, and international factors (mainly its failure to abide by the rules laid down by the International Quartet). Hamas has to choose between continuing its 'moderate' stance and returning to the path of resistance. And, Palestine's unique conditions being what they are, it is simply not possible to engage in resistance (the armed version at least) and exercise power at the same time.
After seizing control of Gaza, Hamas's overriding concern became how to maintain its hold on power to the detriment of all else – including resistance, its excuse for taking power in the first place. Now, six years after Hamas's putsch and the political and geographic split it caused, the question is this: Has Hamas protected the Palestinian resistance, or has resistance become Hamas' principal tool for holding on to power?
The answer to this question can be inferred from the fact that Hamas has been keen to observe a truce with Israel. This illustrates the fact that maintaining its hold on power is Hamas's priority. Just recently, a Hamas spokesman said that maintaining calm (between Hamas and Israel) is a mutual interest. Why was calm not in the Palestinians' interests before Hamas seized power, when it used to carry out suicide attacks despite knowing that the PA would have to pay the price?
Yet Hamas still refuses to admit that it is in deep trouble. It says that it managed to overcome difficulties in the past and would do so again. It says that it still has several strong cards in its hands, the strongest of which is that of resistance, and that it could respond to the Egyptian blockade in many ways including leading a mass march to the border to storm it as it did in 2008.
What Hamas does not seem to understand is that whereas it used to enjoy strong Arab, Islamic, and international support (from Egyptian public opinion especially) when it fought against Israel in the past, this is not the case now.
Now, the picture is totally different. Arab opinion is at best split as far as supporting Hamas is concerned. In fact, a large segment of Arab opinion is now anti-Hamas, seeing it not as a resistance movement to liberate Palestine, but as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is bent on controlling the region with American connivance.
The Muslim Brotherhood reached the zenith of its achievements when it won the presidential and parliamentary elections in Egypt. Since then, it has been downhill all the way. The Egyptian army, with wide public support, eventually overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government and president Mursi, and began prosecuting Muslim Brotherhood activists in what some Egyptians saw as a continuation of the January 25th revolution. Others however saw the army's action as a coup against the revolution and constitutional legitimacy.
Reactions to the blockade of Gaza (which is tighter now than it ever was) are now markedly different. There are very few of the international and Arab campaigns of solidarity that were so numerous in the past. Arab masses have largely lost interest in Gaza's plight, a reflection of the profound changes that have taken place in the region.
Hamas will have to think long and hard before deciding to use the resistance card against Israel in an effort to ease the blockade because of its fears of a strong Israeli response especially as international support for Gaza is now at its lowest ebb. Hamas could choose the path of resistance as a last-ditch 'Samson option' – but it appears that maintaining the calm serves its purpose for the time being, as well as Israel's, as the Hamas spokesman said.
There is however, a guaranteed way for Hamas to emerge from its troubles, but it seems that it is too difficult for the movement to choose it simply because it is now too late. Hamas should have chosen this option even as the Muslim Brotherhood was at the height of its strength.
What option? That of distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood and become more a part of the Palestinian national movement than an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood. Maintaining such a distance is essential because it addresses the unique status of the Palestinian cause as a cause of national liberation that needs Arab, Muslim, and international support. Instead of relying for support on only one current, Hamas would then enjoy broad-based support.
Maintaining such a distance was essential for the pan-Arab movement, the Baath Party, and the Communist Party of Palestine. The failure of the nationalists, leftists, and Islamists was a direct result of their miscomprehending this fact.
The only remaining way out for Hamas is for the movement to demonstrate serious and genuine readiness to respond to the calls for it to end its rule in Gaza in exchange for a genuine partnership in the PA and the PLO.
Hamas should take this path even if it involves unilateral measures on its part, such as transferring power in Gaza to 'a trustworthy national body,' and not calling on other factions to share power with Hamas. The next step would then be to initiate a comprehensive national dialogue designed to end the split, restore national unity, and redeem the Palestinian cause by rewriting the national project and rebuilding the PLO.
This solution does not depend only on Hamas; Fateh and the other factions are also required to uphold the national interest above their own factional interests.
Should they fail to do so, the people should then take action to force their will on them all.