Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s statement that Palestinians have made remarkable progress in reconciliation is heartening. One of the consequential fallouts of the Arab Spring has been a realignment of power structures in the Middle East. Among them, the change of government in Egypt has had the most serious impact on the Palestinian issue. The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, who aligned himself with the US and Israel, and the crowning of the Brotherhood in Egypt have helped create a situation which is conducive for reconciliation between the warring Palestinian groups of Hamas and Fatah.
Speaking in Amman, Meshaal also said that the world must respect unity efforts and supporting reconciliation efforts was the basis for Palestinian unity which will help Palestinians restore their rights. The Hamas leader’s remark, if read properly, points to extraneous influences in Palestinian affairs, and more specifically, pressures and interferences to keep the two groups apart. This is because Hamas is an untouchable for the West and has been blacklisted over its refusal to recognise the state of Israel, while Fatah remains their favourite. Israel too has been working feverishly to keep the two sides fighting to thwart peace efforts and weaken the resistance movement. Hamas and Fatah have expended their energy and time to weaken their rival and now realise that they face the threat of being relegated to irrelevance if the status quo continues. The price has especially been higher for Fatah. Listening and singing to the US and Israeli tunes have brought him nothing in return, except the estrangement of his own ranks. Israel used the stalemate in the peace process and Abbas’ helplessness to expand more settlements and change the ground reality, to make the final goal of a contiguous Palestinian state an impossibility.
Though both sides are keen on reconciliation, the challenges are hefty. Ideologically, both are poles are apart and will have to make huge concessions to make the planned unity work.
The Palestinian national movements’ rivalry exploded into violence in June 2007 when Hamas forces seized control of Gaza a year after they won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Since then both sides have behaved like warring neighbours rather than people fighting for freedom.
Meshaal made the statement in Amman after meeting King Abdullah II. His presence in Amman is another indication of the changing equations in the Middle East. Relations between Hamas and Amman have been strained since 1999 when the authorities expelled Meshaal and three other Hamas members after the group was accused of threatening the kingdom’s security and stability.
The relations are improving now and Meshaal visited Jordan twice last year.