By Luo Shan
On Monday, a legislative member of Islamic Hamas declared it would not plot suicide assault on Israel in the future.
Such an expression, which reflects Hamas' pragmatic manner in dealing with many thorny issues, both internal and external, since being sworn into office, will undoubtedly help prevent the ever-escalating tension between Israel and Palestine from developing into an uncontrollable crisis.
"Demilitarization" serves as an important step the Islamic group has taken to transform itself into a political faction.
As a militant group that has won support from the Palestinians and a legitimate ruling status in Palestine, Hamas has not, however, won back trust from the international community because of its past image.
It is an undisputable fact that it would be very difficult for the Palestinian authorities that need billions of US dollars every year for normal operation to survive if substantial aid from the Arab world and the international community is cut.
Since winning the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, Hamas has thus made unrelenting efforts to open up a new diplomatic situation, but to little avail.
The fundamental reason is that the Islamic group has long been branded a terrorist organization by Western nations.
A few days ago, the US and the EU formally announced an end to direct funding aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, plunging the new regime into a dilemma.
Under these circumstances, as an important step toward demilitarization and transformation into a political faction, Hamas' announcement of a halt to its long-used suicide bombings demonstrates its obvious scramble for survival in the international community.
The top priority facing the Hamas government is to resolve internal strife.
The democratic election has extended to Hamas a rare chance to come onto the Palestinian political stage as a protagonist, but it also must face the price brought about by democracy that is, the fierce jockeying for power among various political factions following the elections.
The collective departure of a number of senior officials of the Palestine National Liberation Movement, or Fatah, from the political arena since Hamas won control over the Palestinian government has added enormous difficulties.
Now a very difficult issue facing Hamas is its shortage of senior talents skilled at political and economic affairs.
Also, the disobedience of the militant factions affiliated with Fatah has created a great obstacle to social stability for the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.
The recent outbreaks of armed violence among Palestine's armed forces have already put Hamas' governing ability to the test.
At the same time, Israel has also exerted great pressures upon the new regime.
Politically, the country announced its disengagement with the Hamas-led Palestinian government. It has also strengthened military strikes upon Palestinian armed forces.
Facing an internal and external dilemma, Hamas had to choose a tactic to appease internal conflicts first.
Through declaring a halt to suicide attacks against Israelis, the Islamic group aims to show its position to the generations-long foe that it will not make trouble first. As a goodwill gesture to Israel, the announcement also demonstrates Hamas' efforts to avoid escalation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Because of a need to stabilize its domestic political foundation, the Interim Israeli Cabinet has so far demonstrated an increasingly tough position toward Palestinians. But so far Israel has not taken any further military actions against Hamas, in the obvious hope of leaving possibilities for their future engagement.
Hamas is also fully conscious that it should distance itself from its previous radical stance, while insisting on a tough position or armed struggle to avoid Israel's misjudgment of it that may ignite an escalation of conflict.
The obviously pragmatic tendency Hamas has displayed to the outside world since taking office has eased concerns slightly over the strained Palestinian-Israeli situation.
However, more efforts are needed from both sides to put aside enmity and misgivings between the two and to create a suitable environment for them to sit side by side at the negotiating table to push for badly needed peace in the region.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of International Information.
(China Daily April 14, 2006)