WJC ANALYSIS – Egyptian politics to determine future of Hamas

By Pinhas Inbari

The cautious truce between the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslim Brotherhood has collapsed following the Brotherhood’s decision to run a candidate for the presidency of Egypt. This in turn triggered the decision of Omar Suleiman, former deputy to the deposed President Hosni Mubarak, to put his hat in the ring, thus placing the leading powers in Egypt on a collision track.

At the same time, Hamas – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – is engaged in the long and secretive process of electing a new Shura, the movement’s governing body. Although the showdown between the SCAF and Muslim Brotherhood is primarily an internal Egyptian concern, it bears direct influence over developments inside Hamas proper as it will determine the future of Khaled Mashal as the organization’s leader and possible transition of Hamas from a resistance-based movement to a purely political party akin to the Brotherhood.

Additionally, the political developments in Egypt are of prime importance to Hamas, which needs free access to the country and seeks to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to promote a joint religious agenda. In addition, Hamas has growing interest and involvement in Egypt-controlled Sinai.

Following the closure of Hamas’ headquarters in Damascus, it was only natural that the organization would seek to relocate to Cairo. However, in addition to the expected objections by the SCAF, Hamas also encountered an unforeseen lack of enthusiasm from the Muslim Brotherhood, which did not rush to accept Mashal and his Diaspora politburo. The Brotherhood’s policy of political Islam came into conflict with Hamas’ resistance policy. The Brotherhood told Khaled Mashal that in order to be accepted in Cairo he should waive Hamas’ resistance character and formally join the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Palestinian sources, should Mashal succeed and acquiesce to these demands, he will be appointed as the representative of the newly oriented Hamas in the international Muslim Brotherhood, which includes representatives from Arab, Muslim and European countries.

Thus far Mashal has been unable to deliver and has not been offered a home in Cairo. However, due to pressure from Qatar and Turkey, who support the Muslim Brotherhood, he has begun to omit the word “resistance” from his public statements and has instead been referring to “popular resistance”. Moreover, during his latest visit to Turkey, Mashal omitted any reference to any kind of “resistance”, in sharp contrast with his rivals in Gaza who emphasized their commitment to the principle of resistance during their visits to Tehran.

In line with its ambition to enter the Muslim Brotherhood Shura, the Diaspora wing of Hamas is also considering changing its name to ‘Hamas – Muslim Brotherhood Branch in Palestine’ and adhering to a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank. The latter would help curtail the arrests of Hamas operatives by Fatah in the West Bank and advance the reconciliation of the two Palestinian sides.

Yet, if the conflict between the SCAF the Muslim Brotherhood escalates, it is likely that the former will pour its anger on the Brotherhood’s ally in Gaza, which in turn will result in an alliance between the Brotherhood and Hamas’ Gazan leadership to the detriment of Khaled Mashal.

Furthermore, Gaza’s apparent strength and advantage over Mashal will likely advance its eventual alliance with the Brotherhood and perpetuate the doctrine of resistance. Mashal is undoubtedly aware of the looming danger to his power play. That is the reason he was so quick to change his tune and proclaim his support for resistance, saying, “Jerusalem will be liberated – only through resistance”.

April 16, 2012 | Comments »

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