Khaled Meshaal’s requests to Hamas’ Shura Council not to nominate him again as the President of the movement’s Political Bureau provoked a variety of reactions in Palestine and abroad. How do we interpret such a position, and what is the truth about what happened inside the Shura Council meetings? First, some believe that this step is the result of the current changes in the region and is a progressive position by Meshaal, in [contrast to] Arab and Palestinian leaders who have clung to their positions [for long periods of time].
Lack of change in leadership has been a constant trait in most Palestinian groups. Traditional leaders monopolized the Palestinian political process even before the Nakba [the ‘Catastrophe,’ the Arabic name for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Palestinian exodus]. Palestinian factions have continued in the same tradition [ever since], with only cosmetic changes, and the new leaders have stayed in their posts without any changes.
Hamas, although the youngest faction in the Palestinian political arena, has learned from other groups’ mistakes, opening the way for younger generations to reach leadership position that are influential in policy making. According to reliable information, [at the Shura meetings,] Meshaal offered an account of the tumultuous events of the recent period. The meeting of Hamas officials was held under difficult circumstances. The leadership of the movement in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the diaspora were grouped alongside representatives of the military wing of the movement (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Martyrs’ Brigade), in addition to prisoners, who participated with pre-written letters and statements.
The participants in the meeting, headed by Meshaal, discussed a full agenda, including two main points: the general political situation, and an account of Hamas’ performance over the last few years. The participants also discussed the internal situation of Hamas and the problems that hindered its development over the past four years, on more than one level.
Palestinian sources close to Hamas said that Meshaal offered a self-critical evaluation [of the organization’s] performance and studied the tactical mistakes made in the general policies and performance of Hamas. However, Meshaal did not ignore the accomplishments of that difficult period and the success of the movement in strengthening its presence on the ground and achieving Arab and international recognition of its stature, despite the International Quartet’s pressure on the Palestinian arena which sought to tame Hamas and push it to accept a settlement [with Israel].
Meshaal’s centrist and moderate personality, his charisma, and his extensive connections played a key role in allowing the movement to avoid pitfalls and [successfully] manage several challenges facing Hamas and the Palestinians [as a whole]. Meshaal also helped push forward several aspects of the Palestinian reconciliation [process], as he is convinced that such a [reconciliation] is necessary in order to face the important political upheaval in the region, and its consequences for the path of resistance to Israel. This central position pushed Meshaal to pragmatically pay tribute to Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunis.
However, [Palestinian] reconciliation still faces several internal and external challenges. Internally, many important officials in both camps do not want to see such an outcome.
However, Meshaal’s wisdom and voice played a role in controlling the extreme reactions of some Hamas leaders within the Shura Council and the Political Bureau. For example, Meshaal condemned what happened with the Fatah delegation headed by the Central Committee Member Bseiso Sakher, at the Beit Hanoun crossing [the delegation was kept waiting at the crossing into the Gaza Strip, where they were scheduled to meet Hamas officials for talks on the reconciliation process. The delegation ultimately left without entering Gaza]. Meshaal also asked Hamas members to raise the Palestinian flag - the symbol of unity - instead of the green flag of Hamas [at political rallies].
The difficult steps awaiting Hamas as one of the major political parties in the Palestinian arena, alongside Fatah, requires leaders with enough experience and wisdom to deal with the current situation. Therefore, the Shura Council refused Meshaal’s demand to leave his position at the end of his current mandate. The Council is expected, once more, to nominate Meshaal for the position of the President of the Political Bureau.