According to Hamas’ charter, the group is “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” The Ikhwan’s rise has been a game-changer for Hamas, and is already causing a shift in its alliances, notably with respect to and Iran and Syria. “Hamas clinging to Gaza as unity remains elusive,” by Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh for the Associated Press, March 19:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) “” Efforts to reunify the Palestinians behind one leadership appear to have hit a dead end: Hamas leaders ruling the Gaza Strip have concluded that subordinating themselves to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be wasting a golden opportunity offered by the Arab Spring.
The thinking, as revealed in interviews with top Hamas officials, is that the regional rise of political Islam in the wake of the past year’s uprisings means this is the time for their Islamic militant group to dominate.
As part of that hard line, some say Gaza “” abandoned by Israeli settlers and soldiers in 2005 “” should steer Palestinian politics instead of the West Bank, where Israel holds far more sway.
“We want the West Bank to come under the Gaza umbrella, simply because Gaza is liberated, and the government there is elected,” said a top Hamas official, referring to 2006 parliamentary elections that produced a short-lived Hamas-led government in the West Bank and Gaza. After Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, the Western-backed Abbas dismissed that government and appointed his own in the West Bank.
A unity deal brokered by Qatar last month was to end five years of separate governments “” Hamas in Gaza and Abbas in the West Bank. Under the agreement,
Abbas is to lead an interim government of independent technocrats for several months, until elections. As interim prime minister, he would regain at least a measure of control in Gaza.
The top Hamas leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, signed the deal without consulting with the movement, pitting him against much of the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
It was part of Mashaal’s attempt to steer Hamas away from longtime patrons Iran and Syria and closer to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which markets a more tolerant Islam and has urged Hamas to moderate. Mashaal’s pledge to Abbas last month to halt violence is part of that shift.
While the Brotherhood has urged Mashaal to make concessions for the sake of reconciliation, Gaza’s Hamas leaders believe they shouldn’t be asked to share control at a time when their movement is finally breaking out of its isolation.
In a test of wills, it increasingly appears that the Gazans will prevail since implementing a unity deal would require their cooperation on the ground.
“The Doha understanding is frozen now,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, Abbas’ point man in talks with Hamas. “It’s in the refrigerator because Hamas in Gaza is against it and won’t allow its implementation.”
Neither side has moved toward implementing the deal since it was signed.
That may partly be due to Abbas’ own reservations about an alliance with the Islamic militants, which could cost him Western backing. Aides have said Abbas wants to keep his options open until after the U.S. presidential election in November, hoping a second-term President Barack Obama, freed from domestic constraints, will push hard for a deal on Palestinian statehood.
On the other hand, Hamas figures opposing the Qatar deal say the movement should not make any decisions before the Egyptian presidential election in late May. The Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt, and the presidential ballot could translate that growing influence into real power….