08 February 2013

Hamas Fatah Unity Talks

My tiny but well-informed readership is quite aware of my healthy obsession with Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas. For almost a year now, I have been claiming that he was steering Hamas towards a peace process with Israel.

A couple of days ago, Meshaal gave an interview to the BBC to announce reconciliation talks with Fatah (the political formation behind the Palestinian Authority). He said that "they were forging ahead with reconciliation" and preparing the groundwork for presidential and legislative elections. The interview gave the impression that what the goal was the formation of a national unity government:
"We are consulting about forming a government of national accord. Preparations for presidential, parliamentary and executive council elections are under way. We are reinvigorating the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) and organising its meetings until new national council and executive committee are elected."
Perhaps more telling about the interview was the way Meshaal approached the subject of Hamas' two patrons in the region, Syria and Iran.

If you read my earlier posts on the subject, you might remember that, last year, Meshaal moved his offices from Damascus to Qatar and distanced himself from Bashar al-Assad. The Prime Minister of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on the other hand stayed close to both Syria and Iran.

This is what Meshaal said to the BBC:
In relation to Syria - a long-time ally of Hamas - Mr Meshaal said the party had been forced out of Damascus because it disagreed with how President Bashar al-Assad was dealing with the conflict.

"There is no doubt that we have disagreed with the Syrian regime on the manner with which they managed the crisis, and their resorting to the security-military option," he said.

"The massacre taking place in Syria pains us very much. We were forced to leave Damascus even though the regime used to support us. We also had differences with Iran on what goes on in Syria." [my emphasis]
This is a very clear statement about Hamas' future. 

If Meshaal remains in power, Hamas will align with the Sunni axis in the region. As you know, that axis is led by Turkey as the ascending regional power and financed by Qatar (and, of course, by Saudi Arabia). 

The reconciliation talks are interesting from another perspective. It is as if Palestinians are mirroring the post-election situation in Israel. In one, Netanyahu is trying to form a large and representative unity government to (according to me) relaunch the peace process. In the other, Meshaal is trying to form a national unity government to face the new Israeli administration in these talks.

In that process, Meshaal the politician, is in a good place. 

In the past, Meshaal indicated that he would be willing to work under Mahmoud Abbas' leadership if that is what it takes to achieve unity. And I think these talks will yield such a formula: A united PLO (encompassing Hamas) led by Abbas, negotiating with Israel. 

If these talks are successful (as I believe they will have to be), Meshaal will become a selfless hero and possibly the man to replace Mahmoud Abbas shortly after the new Palestinian state becomes a reality. 

If, they fail, Meshaal will become the undisputed leaders of Palestinians, as the failure of the peace process will prove to them that Abbas' moderate approach is simply futile. 

As you know, I consider this latter outcome quite unlikely. 

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