Hamas encouraged but waiting
Khaled Meshaal in Cairo Khaled Meshaal, the head of the political office of Hamas, said yesterday during a press conference in Cairo that Hamas would not be an obstacle to a two-state solution and that Hamas is encouraged by the new tone of the Obama administration and ready for a dialogue with it. ...
Khaled Meshaal in Cairo
Khaled Meshaal, the head of the political office of Hamas, said yesterday during a press conference in Cairo that Hamas would not be an obstacle to a two-state solution and that Hamas is encouraged by the new tone of the Obama administration and ready for a dialogue with it. During his first public visit to Cairo in some two years, at a time of deep intra-Palestinian tension, Meshaal struck a surprisingly upbeat tone on issues ranging from peace talks to the future of the Cairo-led talks with Fatah over a Palestinian government of national unity. But within that optimism lurked some serious warnings.
Meshaal’s trip to Cairo and positive public remarks came at a time when intra-Palestinian politics appear ever more sharply divided. Hamas has sharply rejected the legitimacy of the new Abbas-appointed government led by Salam al-Fayyad and has refused to recognize either Abbas or the Fayyad government’s authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. The clashes between Palestinian security forces and Hamas fighters in the West Bank town of Qalqaliya have sharply raised tensions and generated a flood of worried commentary across the Palestinian political spectrum. The Cairo talks have long been stalemated, and Hamas has repeatedly warned in recent weeks of their impending collapse.
Meshaal’s new tone is therefore something worth keeping an eye upon — both for the opportunities and the threats. He said that the reports he received from Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman about Obama’s plans were encouraging. He warned that no real progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track could be made without Hamas, but stressed that Hamas would work with Arab initiatives. He also warned that the clashes in the West Bank were an obstacle to Palestinian reconciliation and a source of serious concern. He said that Hamas was prepared and ready for contacts with the U.S., though there had not yet been any official discussions. He welcomed the new tone in the American position, but — like everyone else — is waiting to see if it translates into real changes of policy.
This matters because no real progress can be made without a Palestinian national unity government which includes Hamas in some form, which re-unites the West Bank and Gaza, and which can agree upon the two-state formula. Meshaal said that Hamas would now be watching Netanyahu’s coming speech carefully to see how much influence the U.S. had over the Israeli position. As will we all…
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark
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