Hamas Political Bureau chief Khaled Mashal’s recent announcement that he plans to resign from his post came as a big surprise in political circles.
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, is still regarded as part of its Egyptian parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the past two years, the developments in the Arab world and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as one of the dominant forces in the Arab Spring compelled Hamas to revise some of its policies. However, almost no political analyst expected the leadership of the group to be affected by these changes.
There are three main hypotheses about the potential departure of the Hamas Political Bureau chief, who is regarded as one of the main architects of the group’s successful resistance against Israel.
Some pundits believe that Mashal announced that he plans to resign due to his disagreements with the main leaders of the group in Gaza, namely Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar. In other words, Mashal’s move is meant to weaken his rivals in the leadership of the organization. Last year, Mashal signed a reconciliation deal with acting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. According to the deal, the two major Palestinian groups should merge and establish a unity government. This angered Haniyeh, and he asserted that such an agreement would completely destroy Hamas’ achievements. Haniyeh believes that Hamas’ integration into the PA, whose security forces have made many compromises with Israel, would be a fatal mistake and would totally undermine Hamas’ resistance ideology.
The second view is that by moving closer to the ideals of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Mashal is trying to improve his reputation and gradually ascend to paramount leadership in Hamas. Mashal’s participation in the Turkish ruling party’s recent congress and his appreciation of Turkish and Egyptian leaders clearly proves that he is trying to synchronize his policies with the Muslim Brotherhood, no matter what happens to his connections with the traditional resistance axis in the region. There are rumors that during the negotiations that led to the reconciliation deal between Mashal and Abbas, the latter agreed to endorse Mashal’s bid for the presidency of the unity government.
According to the third view, Mashal’s announcement is only meant to solidify his position as the next Hamas leader. In other words, Mashal will not resign as the Political Bureau chief.
However, if Mashal resigns from his post, his potential successors, namely Haniyeh and Musa Abu Marzouk, have a good record of cooperation with Iran. The ongoing crisis in Syria will also play a major role in deciding the future of Iran-Hamas relations. Many believe that the relative improvement of the situation on the ground in Syria will compel the leaders of Hamas to strengthen their relations with Tehran.
Seyyed Mohyeddin Sajedi is a Middle East expert at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran.
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