Thursday, 12 April 2012

Hamas: The Search For an Alternative

A homeless Palestinian woman sits by a mural of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) and slain Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City on 26 March 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed Abed)

Published Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Palestinian reconciliation process seems to be facing some serious challenges. Despite the signing of an agreement in Doha between Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal on February 6, the last round of negotiations between Fatah and Hamas have completely failed to bridge the gap between the political rivals.

Of course, this is not the first time this process has encountered such difficulties. Yet, today there are many reasons to rethink these complexities as they come in the prevailing uncertainty of the Middle East following the “Arab Spring.” For Hamas, the consequences of the “Arab Spring” are still ambiguous, so it is likely that the party’s leadership have decided to postpone carrying out any drastic initiatives regarding its political stances at this time.

Over the last year, Hamas has become susceptible to two contradictory developments, chiefly stemming from the changes in Egypt and Syria.

In Egypt, which borders the Gaza strip, former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown following a popular uprising. From the perspective of Hamas, the deposition of Mubarak was a significant watershed since it has been considered as a security threat in the eyes of Mubarak and his regime.

Mubarak’s ouster resulted in holding parliamentary elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) achieved a remarkable triumph. As a Palestinian branch of the original Egyptian MB group founded in 1928, Hamas is content with this electoral victory and hopes that it can gain from the MB victory. Not surprisingly some of Hamas’ leaders and their families moved to settle in Cairo in light of these developments.

However, in Syria, where the figures of Hamas have been living and leading the political activities of the movement over two decades, president Bashar Assad, the chief ally to Hamas, is facing the most dangerous threat to his governance since he ascended to power in 2000.

Hamas standing with both the Syrian leadership and people.
Not Those??
In response to the situation in Syria, Hamas initially released a measured diplomatic press statement in which it confirmed that it is standing with both the Syrian leadership and people. Over the year since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, Hamas has been forced to deny many reports that said that most of the leaders of the movement have pulled out of Syria.

Moussa Abu Marzook, Hamas’s second in command, revealed that the movement still has offices in Syria but that most of leaders are not living in the country.

"Syrian people struggling for democracy"
Ismail Haniyeh expressing solidarity with 
"Syrian people struggling for democracy"

Although Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas’s government in Gaza, adopted an unprecedented position concerning events in Syria during his speech at al-Azhar mosque in Cairo in Feb 24, when he expressed solidarity with the Syrian people struggling for democracy, the majority of Hamas leaders are trying to toe the line of not intervening in the Syrian internal affairs.
Sooner or later, Hamas should answer the challenging questions raised by the inevitable transformations which profoundly changed the political environment in the Middle East.

The remarkable electoral triumph of the MB in Egypt does not mean that a new track is opened for Hamas. SCAF will still hold the actual power in Egypt at least in the near future. Therefore, the political heir of Mubarak’s regime will not change the foreign policy of Egypt which is based mainly on solid ties with Israel and the US.

Moreover, the MB themselves have realized that the rhetoric is quite different from the reality.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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