Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

It is Sinwar and Netanyahu’s Battle Now

In our region, one cannot look at politics in isolation of individual actors. This is especially true for conflict zones, including Gaza. We cannot properly understand the current negotiation process and its outcomes without an adequate reading of the decision-makers of both the Palestine and Israeli sides.

In this case, we are talking about two individuals in specific: Yahya Sinwar and Benjamin Netanyahu. Politicians and the media Netanyahu are of course more familiar with the latter, making him easier to analyze. Indeed, few in the Arab media paid much attention as Sinwar quickly climbed the ranks of Hamas and eventually became its leader in Gaza. Arab media outlets are not interested in individual biographies or the art of the “profile,” and when they do make profiles of figures, their reports are often stained by “sentimentality” or misguided ideologies.

We have learned much about Sinwar recently, especially after Western media outlets began publishing profiles of him and interviewing people who know him, be they Palestinians or Israelis who monitored him during his time in Israeli prisons.

The Wall Street Journal recently published striking details about the exchange between Sinwar and the mediators, suggesting that some Hamas leaders abroad might be looking to distance themselves from his positions. Their attempts to do so have been obvious since the crisis began, especially after the Financial Times published the first profile on Sinwar. The British newspaper provides insights into Sinwar’s approach to managing the war and negotiations, and it shows that there is little trust between the Hamas leaders inside and outside Gaza.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “As the Israeli army quickly dismantled Hamas' military structures, the group’s political leadership began meeting with other Palestinian factions in early December to discuss reconciliation and a post-war plan. Sinwar wasn’t consulted.”

The American newspaper reports that Sinwar sharply criticized this step in a message he sent to Hamas' political leaders abroad, calling it “shameful and outrageous.” It is known that the group’s leaders fear Sinwar, especially Ismail Haniyeh, who left Gaza after Sinwar defeated him.

The messages revealed by the mediators hold further significance. They underline the fact from his trench, Sinwar has taken a seemingly suicidal approach to the war in Gaza, as he believes that greater bloodshed and destruction ultimately benefits Hamas.

The newspaper also reports that, in a recent message "to allies," Sinwar compared what is happening in Gaza to the "Battle of Karbala.” "We have to move forward on the same path we started or let it be a new Karbala."

This story alone affirms that Hamas is not concerned by the bloodshed and destruction in Gaza, Palestinian reconciliation, or "the day after." All Sinwar cares about is finding validating his claim to "victory," come what may.

The messages show that Hamas' leadership in the field does account for the facts on the ground, which means that more suffering and blood awaits Gaza in the future, even after the war ends.

Accordingly, the battle in Gaza has now become a personal battle between Sinwar and Netanyahu.