The release of BBC report Alan Johnston Wednesday by Hamas members is certainly a grand achievement for the movement. Hamas is now sending a message to the Palestinians, and even more so to the international community, that it is not just an extremist movement, but rather, a movement that also knows how to be pragmatic and resolve crises.
Several hours after taking over the Gaza Strip, Hamas announced that Johnston's release is of the utmost importance. Now, after the BBC reporter was released following 114 days in captivity, the movement expects to reap the rewards. Top Hamas members hinted to foreign governments following the release: "Now, after we lifted the siege on Johnston, we hope to see the international siege on the Hamas government lifted as well."
While a euphoric atmosphere prevails in the Gaza Strip and among Hamas members in wake of the release, the opposite is true around Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Ever since Johnston was abducted, Hamas claimed that the abductors were supported by official elements within Palestinian security apparatuses. Hamas says that the successful release operation poses a large question mark: Did Abbas' people postpone the release in order to deepen the anarchy in the Gaza Strip and undermine Hamas' image? Did they aim to prove to all that Hamas' election pledges to introduce reforms and put an end to the anarchy were false promises?
Hamas stresses that a day after the takeover of Gaza and disappearance of the Palestinian Authority and its apparatuses, the anarchy has also disappeared from Gaza's streets. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was quick to hurl an implied insult at Abbas following the release: "We hope that the order, security, and end to anarchy would also reach the West Bank."
How did Hamas succeed?
Abbas will no doubt face the following question from world leaders: How did the tens of thousands of security forces under his command fail where Hamas' security force succeeded?
Yet will this bring about an improvement in Hamas' image worldwide? This is highly doubtful. Still, when it comes to the struggle for prestige and public opinion in the PA and worldwide, Hamas registered a huge achievements vis-à-vis Abbas.
Even the payment of salaries by Salam Fayyad's government Wednesday to tens of thousands of officials for the first time in a year and a half won't be able to steal the limelight from Hamas' success.
Speaking at the press conference, Haniyeh said he hopes that the Gilad Shalit abduction affair will also draw to an end, just like the Johnston affair. In fact, this is the message Hamas is interested in conveying to Israel and the world at this time – the message that when it comes to the Palestinians, Hamas is the address for doing business.
Just like Hamas was the first movement that implemented the calm agreement reached by Palestinian factions in March 2005, Hamas seeks to say at this time: "We were the first to put an end to anarchy. Give us a try."