The Arab Spring has brought drastic changes in our region. Among the most important is Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s exit from Damascus after the revolution started in Syria. Also, Hamas came out of Iran’s control. Another important development is the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s visit to Gaza to break the blockade of Israel. Other changes too took place in a short period. Hamas and Israel agreed on a truce brokered by Egypt after week-long fierce fighting in Gaza.
Finally, the United Nations General Assembly recognised Palestine as a ‘non-member observer state’ with overwhelming majority.
Equally significant is Khaled Meshaal’s visit to Gaza to open a new chapter in Palestine-Israel relations and to draw a new roadmap for the Middle East.
After spending 37 years in exile, Meshaal visited Gaza to participate in the silver jubilee celebrations of Hamas. He had mixed feelings of nostalgia, happiness and victory and broke into tears upon entering Gaza soil. Thousands of people from all political parties welcomed Meshaal who returned to his home country after spending about four decades in exile.
Meshaal described the visit as his third birth. The first birth was in 1956 and the second when he faced an assassination attempt by Israel in Jordon (then Prime Minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu was behind the attack)
Meshaal disclosed a new phase for Hamas movement that looks very close to a political process -- not only to bring together all factions of Palestine but also to change the strategy for dealing with Israel.
Perhaps it indicates the next phase for Hamas. He hinted at accepting a state in the framework of 1967 borders and it marks a remarkable improvement in the Israel-Palestine relations including the recognition of Israel as a country.
Meshaal believes that resistance is a means, not an aim and said if the international community has any solution to return Palestine with Jerusalem and guarantee the right of exiled Palestinians to return home and put an end to the Jewish occupation, he would welcome the move.
It is interesting to note that when Meshaal left Syria, Israel changed its perspective about him. Some experts say Meshaal is the only person who can open dialogue between Hamas and Israel. The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot reported this week that the Binyamin Netanyahu government has taken concrete measures to break the blockade of Gaza, a dramatic change in the policy of Israeli government towards Hamas. It is said that the change in Israeli policy is meant to push Hamas to embrace the Sunni camp, which is seen as moderate in the region.
Shlomo Brom, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, an independent research institute in Tel Aviv, said: “Khaled Meshaal now plays a more positive role from the point of view of Israel. Hamas is divided into two factions – the Gaza faction and the outside faction, and there is a debate between the two on several issues. The external faction of Meshaal is more moderate and that is why it is important to Israel’. Many Israeli politicians believe that Meshaal supports the idea of a long-term truce with Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal to the borders of 1967, (land for peace). Israeli-Palestinian relations would change if he could manage to change Hamas’ policy and engage in a serious dialogue with Israel, either directly or through mediator.
Some Israeli leaders have given a different point of view on the recent war in Gaza. They say it has pushed the movement towards the Sunni camp, namely Egypt and Qatar, and here comes the importance of Meshaal who is expected to play a major role.
When Meshaal suggested that Hamas can accept a Palestinian state on the border of 1967, many people were surprised because of the sudden change in the strategic approach of Hamas. However, this will require Egypt to play the role of a mediator. In fact, many believe that the domination of Muslim Brotherhood strategy over governments in Arab Spring countries – may be including Jordan and Syria in the future -- will make Israeli negotiations with Hamas a reality, and this cannot happen without the support of America.
At this point, Hamas should play its military and political cards effectively, since the Israelis had already informed the Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas that there is a new political situation in the region and that Israel could sit down to negotiate with Hamas.
Meshaal announced recently that he will not run for the presidency of the political bureau of Hamas, in a move perhaps to prepare himself to lead Palestine by replacing Mahmoud Abbas. It is clear that the movement is heading towards Palestinian reconciliation, and prepares to lead Palestine in order to put an end to decades of conflict in the Middle East. This could only happen if Hamas leadership manages to address internal and external issues and pursues the same strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood. And this goes in line with the US interests in the region.
It seems that the coming days will be full of surprising things and many facts will be revealed to us. The Peninsula