Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taking Stock in Hamas

If Hamas were a publically traded company, there's little doubt that they would be rated a stock to buy. As it appears Israel may be about to strike a deal with Hamas to release nearly 1000 terrorists and others in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped and held hostage for three and a half years by Hamas in Gaza, it’s a safe bet that upon concluding this deal, Hamas’ stock will go up. Especially on the Arab street. Hamas’ ability to kidnap and hold Shalit hostage all these years gives them added prowess in the eyes of the Arab world for holding Israel at bay. Exchanging Shalit for as many as 1000 Arab terrorists will be perceived as a big victory for Hamas. In business terms, it’s like launching a new product that replaces that of the nearest competition, or the conclusion of a hostile takeover. Yes, if Hamas were a publically traded company, now would be a good time to buy. But a careful analyst, while issuing a recommendation to “buy Hamas” now because of the impending deal, and a resulting increase of Hamas’ value, would be remiss not to consider other factors that might change the “buy” recommendation to a to a “sell”, almost as quickly as many of the terrorists who are expelled from the region find their way back to Gaza through the porous border with Egypt, through the network of tunnels to which Egypt and the world turn a blind eye. One of the reasons Hamas’ stock is likely to dive as fast as it rises is an ongoing conflict with Egypt. While Egypt facilitates the smuggling of weapons, drugs, prostitutes and terrorists through the tunnels if only in not preventing it, Egypt has been embarrassed by Hamas too many times and consequences are likely to arise. Egypt has been trying to serve as the broker to strike a deal to release Shalit but Hamas has embarrassed Egypt by seeking to work through German mediators. Egypt has also been trying to strike a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah since the violent Hamas insurrection that saw Fatah and the ruling Palestinian Authority expelled from power in Gaza, and the establishment of a mini Hamas terror state in Gaza under its total hegemony. Hamas’ agreeing to, and then retracting from, reconciliation with Fatah was a personal slight to Egyptian President Mubarak, diminishing Mubarak’s own stock in the Arab world, challenging his strength, influence and even legitimacy. As a result, Egypt announced its plan recently to build a 30-40 meter deep underground metal wall along the Gaza border to block and prevent smuggling in the tunnels which, until now, they have let happen with virtual impunity if not active support. The political struggle between Egypt and Hamas aside, were smuggling like this to be stopped or significantly diminished, access to many items that have been smuggled will decrease, their prices will increase, and Hamas’ stock on the street will fall. While Hamas’ stock may well go up as a result of its ability to strike a deal that sees the release of as many as 1000 terrorists and others, a good analyst will not discount the fact that a year ago this week, Hamas instigated a battle that saw Gaza attacked and an equal number of Gazans killed as a result. If half of the human tragedy that Hamas (and Goldstone) claimed took place actually did take place, while there may be cause for celebration in the release of the terrorists on Gaza’s streets, nobody can ignore that the suffering that Gazans have endured is a direct result and consequence of Hamas’ religious extremism, ideological intransigence, and their unrelenting attacks on Israel whose very existence they still give no legitimacy. With nothing changing on the extremism, intransigence or physical attacks, a good analyst will know it’s just a matter of time before there is another battle that could see 1000 or more Gazans killed, again. This too will diminish Hamas’ stock on the Arab street. There is a great conflict in Israel over this deal with Hamas. There is near universal support for and solidarity with the Shalit family and desire to bring Gilad Shalit home. He is one of us and could be any of our sons. But there is equal division, and are lots of questions, about at what price to do this. How should the relatives of someone murdered by these (soon-to-be-released) terrorists feel that their murderer is going free? How should any of us feel in making such a deal? It gives us pause to go out for coffee, ride a city bus, or spend a holiday with family in a hotel, knowing that the terrorists responsible for some of the worst terror attacks in places just like this are running free, plotting to do it again. There is concern that in making such a deal we are legitimizing Hamas’ tactics and rewarding terrorism. The world chastises Israel for fighting Hamas which is part of the reason that Israel does so without completing the battle and crushing them entirely. Yet the very completion of the deal at hand may be the inevitable act that necessitates Israel to fight Hamas yet again. Of course, Hamas is not a publically traded stock but a criminal Jihadist terrorist organization. In business there are any number of factors that cause a company’s stock to rise and fall. Some we can project and predict. Others surprise even the best analysts and planners, and can only be responded to. If Hamas were a publically traded company and I were a business analyst, I would project is that a deal to release Gilad Shalit for some 1000 terrorists and others may increase Hamas’ short term value and may bring Gilad Shalit home to sleep peacefully in his own bed at last. But, I’d issue a call to sell shares in Hamas as fast as Shalit gets home, because his return will give no reason for Israelis, or Palestinians, reason to sleep peacefully for very long.

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