Khaled Meshaal’s Gaza Visit No Real Concession by Israel

Article Summary
Permitting the Hamas chief’s visit to Gaza was a move by Israel calculated to keep the groups resisting its occupation fragmented, writes Muhammad Yaghi.

Since we do not know where leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Ramadan Shallah resides, his location was left blank in the title of the article.

In fact, the major question is not about Shallah’s location.The question is why Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was allowed to enter Gaza, while the secretary-general of PIJ was threatened by Israel with assassination should he do so.

Meshaal’s revolutionary speech during the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Hamas’ foundation last week, his promises to continue armed resistance and to release prisoners in the same way that hundreds were released following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and his assertion that Operation Sajil Stones and the ensuing agreements formed a model to follow in the fight against Israeli occupation shows that Meshaal’s position does not differ at all from that of Shallah.

So why was Meshaal allowed to enter Gaza and not Shallah? Why does the agreement to cease assassinations stand when Meshaal enters Gaza, but not if Shallah does the same? In order to sustain the cease-fire agreement, Shallah was forced to stay out of Gaza.

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These questions are not intended to raise suspicion over Meshaal's visit to Gaza. First and foremost, Gaza is a liberated territory, and any Palestinian has the right to enter it.

As for Meshaal, he made a heroic step by entering Gaza knowing that Israel might break its pact with Egypt and settle old scores with him.

Israel targeted Ahmed Jabari while he was coordinating with Egypt on an extension of the cease-fire. It also targeted Meshaal in 1997 in Jordan. This article aims to explore how Israel thinks.

Israel believes that maintaining a strong security relationship with Egypt requires concessions, so long as these concessions are not related to the heart of the conflict. That is, firstly, the fate of the West Bank, and secondly, the security of Israel.

Apart from these, Israel does not mind making concessions, including allowing Meshaal to visit Gaza, the entry of building materials for the reconstruction of the strip and taking steps to mitigate the impact of the blockade on its people.

In Israel’s view, Hamas is an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As long as an understanding can be established with the "mother" — or at least working to avoid angering her — there is no objection to making a few concessions to the “son,” Hamas.

Therefore, Israel’s concessions did not come as a result of the rattling victory in Operation Sajil Stones, or as an attempt to push Hamas to make political concessions which Israel well knows Hamas would not make. The concessions were made to maintain a good relationship with the current rulers in Egypt.

Egypt under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood does not want a conflict with Israel, at least for the next 10 years. Thus, and because it is the "mother" of Hamas, Israel believes — perhaps rightly so — that the "mother" will pressure her "son" in Gaza to refrain from straining the political atmosphere in the meantime.

Hamas might be willing to listen to Egypt because its intellectual, religious and political ideology — as well as its future calculations — are related to Egypt's position on the conflict, much more so than we might assume.

Whatever the calculations, and whatever our analysis, we believe that the cease-fire and its results are in the interest of Palestinians, and that should not be underestimated. We believe that Gaza’s battle is to end the siege, and that because of the curse of its geography, the cease-fire cannot contribute effectively to the liberation of the West Bank. However, this is a different topic.

On the other hand, Israel does not see Islamic Jihad as a “son” of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but as the spoiled offspring of Iran. According to Israel’s calculations, this implies that Egypt cannot influence Islamic Jihad, and as long as this is the case, there is no need to make concessions for Shallah similar to those made by Israel for Meshaal, including safe entry to Gaza and the possibility of achieving what Meshaal said in his speech there.

If Iran had sponsored the cease-fire agreement instead of Egypt, Shallah would be in Gaza, and Meshaal outside of it.

Israel knows that Islamic Jihad has kept its position as part of the “Defiance Front” — that is, if this term still stands. Islamic Jihad still sees Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as allies. This is unlike Hamas, or at least its political leadership, which believes that the political circumstances have changed and that the next Defiance Front must have a Sunni direction.

In the political game, there is no harm in courting the Americans and asking them to look, even if with one eye, at the interests of the Palestinian people, as long as their hundred other eyes only see the interests of Israel and its security. (This statement was made by Meshaal in Cairo regarding the US stance on the war on Gaza, which he refrained from condemning, as opposed to an explicit condemnation by Shallah).

Israel’s calculations are closer to the Arabs’ way of thinking than they imagine. As long as Israel can foster sectarianism among them, and fragment them into Sunnis and Shiites, a West Bank and a Gaza Strip, peasants and urbanites, Israel will be willing to make endless symbolic concessions, including a future visit by Meshaal to the city of Jerusalem to pray at the Temple Mount.

Frankly, Meshaal should not have accepted to visit Gaza without Shallah, because the path of resistance is unity. God is all-knowing.

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Found in: ramadan shallah, ramadan, hamas, gaza
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