Palestinian Consensus Government Prime Minister, Ramy al-Hamdallah, Hamas Movement Head in Gaza, Yehya al-Senwar and Head of Hamas movement Ismail Hanya – Press photo Palestinian Consensus Government Prime Minister, Ramy al-Hamdallah, Hamas Movement Head in Gaza, Yehya al-Senwar and Head of Hamas movement Ismail Hanya – Press photo

Why Hamas changed its position in the reconciliation?

Sat, Oct. 7, 2017
CAIRO – 7 October 2017: Following a decade of division between the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, the internationally recognized Palestinian government convened in Gaza last week for the first time since 2014.

The meeting came as a result of Egyptian mediation efforts to end the split between the two major Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas. Nonetheless, one might wonder what changes Hamas has really undergone and to what extent it has changed its radical agenda.

In order to answer these, we must focus on the main changes in Hamas’s stance and strategy taking into consideration other regional changes. This will eventually lead to a better understanding of Hamas’s view on the reconciliation with Fatah.

Muslim Brotherhood - CC

The fall of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Hamas, founded in 1987, acknowledged in its manifesto known as “the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement” that it was a part of the International Muslim Brotherhood. The convention praised the Brotherhood’s approach in different fields. Throughout its history, the MB (Muslim Brotherhood), which was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, was supportive of Hamas, promoting it as an offshoot of the movement.

With the June 30, 2013 revolution, and the overthrow of the President Mohamed Morsi, the MB was discredited and represented as a threat to the state and the Arab world. This threat was extended to portraying Hamas, being an affiliate of the MB in Palestine. They therefore represented major threats to the stability of the Arab world as a whole.

Following the new changes, regional support of Hamas seemed strained. The group suffers from an economic boycott imposed by the West and rigid restrictions by Israel on the movement of goods and people. This was due to its confrontational stance toward the outside world, which was basically driven from the MB.

In May, Hamas released a new manifesto outlining the end of its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, a move apparently aimed at improving ties with Gulf Arab states and Egypt, which view the Brotherhood as a terrorist group. The momentous decision reflected the practical change that took place in Hamas' political ideology.

“Hamas adopted a new approach characterized by flexibility, development, renewal and moderation without prejudice to the principles of the Palestinian nation,” Hamas’s leader Khaled Mashal said.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani - File Photo

Decline of Qatar’s support

On June 5, Qatar was hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years when four Arab countries decided to boycott the tiny emirate — namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. The Arab quartet aimed to punish Qatar for supporting Islamist groups that work on destabilizing the region, particularly the MB and Hamas.

The Arab quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the Qatari peninsula. They also issued 13 demands to Doha; however they shortened their demands to six principles. Those demands also included closing Al Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and closing a Turkish military base.

Many experts believe that the continued pressure on Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, Emir of Qatar, will have negative economic and political effects on Hamas. Funding to the Palestine movement would be reduced significantly, and Hamas’ leaders would be forced to leave Doha.

The elected head of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, once announced his intention to move from Gaza to Doha. This decision now seems unlikely to happen.

The new situation left no choice for Hamas to ease the blockade squeezing its territory, except to return to the political umbrella of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and give up the rule of the Gaza Strip.

children Suffring in Gaza - CC

Deterioration of living conditions in Gaza

The Palestinian people are usually the victim of politics. The humanitarian situation worsened extremely in the Gaza Strip due to the Israeli continued siege, risking the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

In April, Gaza’s sole power plant shut down completely due to the shortage of fuel. It came as a result of the dispute between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza. They disputed over tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers.

Gaza currently relies on electricity purchased from Israel only, but this situation cannot last for a long time because Hamas will need approximately $12.5 million per month to buy power from Israel, which seems impossible amid the lack of required financial resources.

The poor supply of electricity also affected frequency of the water supply to households; not to mention the negative impact on health services.

Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh recieves Egypt's Intelligence Chief Khaled Fawzy in Gaza - Press Photo.

New generation of leaders in Hamas

In May, the Hamas Shura Council elected Ismail Haniya as head of the movement's political bureau. He succeeded Qatar-based veteran leader Khaled Meshaal, who had been in charge of the political wing since 2004.

Haniya, who is considered as a pragmatist within the militant group, served as prime minister of Gaza from 2007 until 2014 when he led Hamas to sign a reconciliation deal with the West Bank.

Experts believe that Haniya's election shows that Hamas' centre of influence has moved from Doha to Gaza. Therefore, it will be impossible for states in the region to reach an understanding with Hamas without finding a comprehensive solution to the Gaza crisis.

Since its composition, the Shura Council consisted of dozens of religious leaders and imams, but those days have passed. The council’s criteria of members changed over the years. It now includes well-educated individuals and professionals from Gaza and the West Bank as well as top Palestinian lecturers from well-known universities around the world.

Most of Hamas’ younger generation members are tired of the old stagnant leadership that offered no solutions for the besieged strip. This generation hopes the election of Haniya can lead to a refreshing change in key positions in the movement. The movement activists aged 30-40 will have the chance now more than ever to advance and exert political influence over the way their movement will look in the coming years.
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