Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has vowed to destroy Israel, is emerging as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the nuclear deal reached in mid-July between Iran and the world powers.
Emboldened by the deal, Hamas is now seeking to reap the fruits by tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip with the help of Iran. This, of course, is bad news for Hamas’ rivals in the Palestinian arena, namely the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as all those who still believe in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
The nuclear deal has also driven Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries to restore their relations with Hamas. The goal is to entice Hamas and its patrons in the Muslim Brotherhood to become part of an anti-Iran Sunni coalition in the Arab world.
Hamas is now trying to have it both ways: to restore its ties with the major Arab countries while, at the same time, also improving its relations with Iran. For now, Hamas’ strategy seems to be working, thanks to the nuclear deal between the world powers and Iran.
Some Hamas leaders have not concealed their deep satisfaction with the deal; they say it would definitely strengthen their movement and other terror groups in the Middle East that are vehemently opposed to any peace agreement with Israel.
One of these leaders, Mahmoud Zahar, voiced hope that the nuclear deal would pave the way for Iran to increase its support for Teheran’s proxies in the Middle East, first and foremost Hamas.
Heaping praise on the deal, Zahar, who is closely associated with Iran, said that Hamas was now much stronger than it was during the last war with Israel. “The Palestinian people will not surrender and we will continue with the resistance until the liberation of all of Palestine,” he said.
Hamas is only one of several radical groups in the Gaza Strip that have been receiving financial and military aid from Iran. The other groups include Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and some Fatah-affiliated militias.
According to Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip, the Iranians have already resumed their aid to Hamas’ military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam. Relations between Iran and Hamas were strained four years ago, after Hamas refused to support Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in his fight against rebel groups. Hamas officials are now hoping that the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran will lead to a dramatic increase in Teheran’s support for the terror groups in the region.
The rapprochement between the Western powers and Iran has also led to closer cooperation between Hamas and Teheran’s proxy organisation in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
On the eve of the signing of the nuclear deal, senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk travelled to Beirut for talks with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Although Hamas and Hezbollah have many differences, especially over the civil war in Syria, the two terror groups share a common goal: the destruction of Israel.
Hamas knows that Hezbollah also stands to gain much from the nuclear deal, which will also allow Iran to increase its military support for the Lebanese organisation. Hamas leaders hope that some weapons will also make their way to the Gaza Strip, especially in light of the tough security measures that hamper smuggling across the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Thanks to the deal, Hamas and Hezbollah are once again working together toward achieving their goal of undermining moderate Arabs and Muslims, and eliminating Israel.
But what is perhaps even more interesting is that the nuclear deal has seen Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries courting Hamas.
For the past three years, the Saudis refused to talk to Hamas and treated the movement as an enemy and threat. But now the deal seems to have convinced the Saudis to change their strategy toward Hamas.
Shortly after the “historic” deal was signed between Iran and the world powers, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was invited to Saudi Arabia, in a sudden move that came as a surprise even to some Hamas leaders.
Meshaal’s unexpected visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz, is being hailed by Hamas leaders as a “dramatic and important” development.
Hamas’ senior representative in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, said that the visit paves the way for a new era in relations between his movement and Saudi Arabia. “This was a fruitful, successful and fine visit,” he added.
Meshaal’s visit to Saudi Arabia quickly resulted in a positive development for Hamas. The Saudis, in a gesture to Meshaal, decided to release from prison several Hamas men who were imprisoned in the Kingdom for their role in terrorism.
Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah have expressed deep concern over the rapprochement between Hamas and Saudi Arabia. They explained that the restoration of ties between Hamas and the Saudis would further empower the Islamist movement in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip at a time when the PA is waging a massive security crackdown on Hamas supporters. In recent weeks, PA security forces in the West Bank arrested more than 250 Hamas men in yet another attempt to crush Hamas’ growing influence.
The nuclear deal has come as a blessing for Hamas and all the enemies of peace in the Middle East. Hamas is now seeking to kill two birds with one stone: to ensure continued Iranian backing for its plan to destroy Israel while at the same time joining the Sunni-led coalition and pretending to be opposed to Iran’s rising power in the Middle East.
The nuclear deal paves the way for Hamas to continue receiving weapons from its friends in Teheran and millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries in the Middle East. This deal has virtually destroyed any prospect of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thanks to the policy of appeasing Iran, the enemies of peace in the region will now have more weapons and cash.
Veteran Arab Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh is Palestinian Affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post. © Gatestone Institute, reprinted by permission of the author, all rights reserved.