Hamas, which has left its mark on Palestine’s political life, embarked on a quest for both a new leader and a new policy.
The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt is expected to be the driving force of change in Hamas, which will affect the region as well as Palestine.
Samir Ghattas, director of Maqdis Center for Political Studies in Gaza, says Hamas is definitely attached to the Muslim Brotherhood, and so the role the Muslim Brotherhood will have in the political life of Egypt in the same way will deeply affect Hamas.
The wind of change within Hamas started after the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal, which took place in Cairo last May and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu also attended. Hamas leader Khalid Mishal, just like Palestine’s leader Mahmud Abbas, supports the establishment of a Palestine state within 1967 borders.
However, at the time of this reconciliation, many inner conflicts within Hamas were revealed. Mahmoud Zahar, one of Hamas’ big guns, caused deep cracks within the organization to be unearthed when he severely criticized Mishal.
Stressing that the most important reason behind change in Hamas is the developments in Syria, Ghattas points out the existence of Hamas in Syria leads to heavy oppression of the organization, as tens of people are dying there everyday.
Saying that, on the other hand, Hamas getting out of Syria may cause serious problems, Ghattas adds: “First of all, the country where Mishal and the organization will deploy is vague. Qatar and Jordan are the countries that are discussed most. Secondly, Hamas has a serious asset in Syria, and there is a great amount of money in their banks. Therefore, if the organization retreats from this country, it will leave all its wealth behind.”
According to Ahmed Mousa, head of the political section at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, whether or not Hamas will get out of Syria isn’t known. Pointing out that there are no concrete developments that indicate whether or not there will be a serious change within Hamas, Mousa states that the organization establishing itself in Egypt is beside the point.
Ghattas also says Hamas’s settling in Egypt seriously distresses the Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to establish the government in Egypt, and therefore it isn’t very possible.
Hamas’ Prime Minister of Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, who is nominated as a candidate to be the leader of the organization and visited some countries last month, didn’t negotiate with any Egyptian officials in the course of his communications in Egypt. All leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who negotiated with Haniyeh put forward that they have just moral support for the Palestinian group.
As for Ghattas, he claims the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt makes up the main spine of Islamic movements in the Arab world, and all of the religion-based political movements from El-Nahda in Tunisia to Hamas have organic ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Recently, Hamas has been facing many deadlocks. First is the connection between Iran and Syria. How Hamas, a conservative Sunni movement just like the Muslim Brotherhood, can be in alliance with Syria, which is administered by Iran and an Alevi minority that makes a great deal of effort to spread Shiism and that draws the reaction of world community due to its massacres against its public, has started to be criticized more.
The second is the role of Qatar, which is trying to get Hamas out of Syria. Qatar is considered to be the Arab country that not only hosts the US Army on its lands but also has the warmest relations with Israel since it wants to exterminate Hamas. Therefore, the establishment of Hamas in Qatar will create an interesting conflict. As a second alternative, Qatar considers Jordan as a place for Hamas to be established. With this aim, Crown Prince of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani plans to take Mishal to Jordan. However, whether or not Mishal, who was exiled from Jordan 13 years ago, will be allowed to return Jordan is a very big question.
The third is Hamas’ relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood that keeps sending warm messages to Israel and the US is trying to prevent Hamas from engaging in possible combat with Israel. It is said this situation may cause some breakdowns within the organization.
The fourth is financial support. Iran, which Haniyeh visited at the beginning of the week, has been shown to be the biggest financial supporter of Hamas. However, Iran was pressuring Hamas to stand by the Syrian regime. It is said that in this case, Iran may cut off its financial support for Hamas. Although it won’t give exact information about its income, Hamas mentioned its budget for this year might exceed $700 million.
Alleging that Hamas lost the support of the Palestinian people day by day, in addition to the support of its strong promoters like Iran and Syria, Ghattas claims the number of votes the organization will receive in the elections to be held next May will be around 15 percent.
According to Ghattas, Mishal, who stated he won’t be a candidate for the leadership of Hamas again, may have some other projects in mind; he may found a party within Hamas just like Freedom and Justice Party, the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and become the leader of this party.
For Ghattas, who states there is no one else in the organization that has Mishal’s charisma, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar from the Gaza group, who are nominated as candidates for leadership, are very unobtrusive people. Ghattas mentions that Mousa Abu Marzook, the second most important person in the Syrian group after Mishal, is the only visible alternative within the organization.
The developments emerging in Hamas make it difficult to implement the issues on which Hamas reconciled with rival group Fatah. According to the reconciliation calendar, it was decided that parliamentary and presidential elections be held in May and that a government led by technocrats be working in the meantime. However, the fact that there isn’t any agreement on a transitional government suggests the elections will not be held.