Hamas’ Internal Power Struggle Complicates Palestinian Unity

Article Summary
Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, has come under fire from the movement’s leadership in Gaza. According to Motasem Hamadah, Meshaal is perceived as straying from Hamas’ hardline rhetoric and deferring to its rivals in the more mainstream Fatah movement, with whom he has hammered out a deal on Palestinian unification.

The struggle for the chairmanship of Hamas’ political bureau cannot be viewed separately from the disagreements between [the Damascus-based incumbent,] Khaled Meshaal, and the rest of the candidates, [who are resident in the Gaza Strip].

Looking at the policies of Meshaal since the founding of the popular movement [Hamas], we note that he has adopted a two-pronged approach involving an open and conciliatory policy towards President Abbas to end [inter-Palestinian] division and restore a minimum degree of unity. He has also taken moderate positions akin to those of Abbas on the principles of negotiation on the resistance - both armed and popular. In addition, Abbas and Meshaal shared similar views on the UN bid [for Palestinian statehood], with the Hamas leader praising Abbas' speech at the General Assembly.

This policy is dialectically linked to regional conditions. Meshaal’s leadership was no longer separated from events in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria. Today, Hamas’ leadership should be in line with the events unfolding in the region in terms of political and geographical repositioning.

Repositioning is not just a leap in the air. It is a re-formulation of regional relations, notably with Syria and Iran, and an attempt to take advantage of the moderate Muslim Brotherhood that is open to American and Western policies. Thus, Hamas could use its influence to re-formulate the Palestinian equation, which remains in the hands of Abbas alone.

However, the outside perspective is different than the view from the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ leadership has criticized Meshaal for going too far with his rapprochement with Abbas, and drifting away from the movement's "traditional" allies and political rhetoric.

Several statements made by [Hamas] leaders in the Gaza Strip were critical of Meshaal’s positions; but Hamas’ leadership swiftly denied [the existence of this criticism] afterwards. This kind of covering up is no longer acceptable. The elections for a new political chief have shed light on the movement's differences and disagreements within its lines. These differences were noticeable in the slow implementation of the requirements for reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas], and the disruption to the rapprochement process caused by the arrest of some Fatah members.

Furthermore, the disagreements [between Meshaal and his rivals] were evident when Ismail Haniyah presented himself as an alternative candidate, delivering a speech [based in] Hamas’ traditional [rhetoric]. Haniyah's trip to the region will include Tehran, which is on the verge of closing its door in Meshaal’s face.

Hamas’ leadership [in Gaza] believes that it takes priority [for leadership of the movement], for it [is the Gazan wing of Hamas] that has endured endless hardships to earn the influential role it now holds.

Meshaal was not alone; the movement in the West Bank was also targeted. Gradually, voices have been raised, not only [in support of] Meshaal, but also to emphasize that the safety and survival of the movement now lie in the hands of the sons of the West Bank.

This gives news dimensions to Hamas’ [internal power struggle].

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Found in: west, palestinian, hamas, gaza, fatah
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