In the aftermath of the recent Qatari-brokered reconciliation agreement between Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, many have suggested that Hamas is moderating both its long-standing goals of Israel’s destruction and its traditional rejection of any negotiations with Israel. But Hamas’ leadership in Gaza, spearheaded Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, has been making it very clear that they do not support any such change.
Haniyeh used the opportunity of a visit to Iran over the weekend to reiterate the group’s determination to not recognise Israel.
Invited to Iran to participate in celebrations marking the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Haniyeh told a crowd in Teheran on Saturday, as the AFP reported:
“As the representative of the Palestinan people and in the name of all the world’s freedom seekers, I am announcing from Azadi Square in Tehran that we will never recognise Israel,” Haniyeh said.
Haniyah was sharing a platform with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the time, who used the occasion to boast about Iranian support for Holocaust denial. He reportedly said:
“The Iranian nation has smashed a new and modern idol. The world arrogance (the United States) and colonialists (the West), in order to dominate the world, created an idol called the Zionist regime (Israel)… The spirit of this idol was a story called the Holocaust… The Iranian nation with courage and wisdom smashed this idol to free the people of the West (of its hold).”
Haniyeh also met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khameini during his visit.
On Sunday, Khameni voiced his country’s full support for Hamas in its fight against Israel and said Teheran considers the Palestinian issue an “Islamic cause.”
Haniya was quoted as telling Khamenei that the goal of Hamas remained “freedom of all the Palestinian land from the (Mediterranean) sea to the (Jordan) river, the refusal of peace talks and the Islamic character of the Palestinian struggle.”
Back in Gaza, another top Hamas official criticised the Meshaal-Abbas agreement. <>
“Handing the reins of government to Abbas is completely unacceptable,” said Hamas strongman Zahar. “It’s a strategically erroneous plan.”
Meanwhile, Mkhaimar Abusada, a political-science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza Ctiy, commented to the Wall Street Journal about Hamas’ growing rift.
“It’s very noticeable that the Hamas leadership in Gaza is drifting away from the Hamas exiled leadership,” Abusada said. “Meshal has been weakened. He is trying to show some moderation because of the changes in the Middle East. But the Hamas leaders in Gaza Strip are on their own territory and not as affected.”
In another interview with Al Arabiya, Abusada opined that the unrest in Syria is causing Meshaal to reconsider the group’s allegiance to the Syria-Iran axis. However, he said, the Gazan leadership see things differently.
Abusada added, divisions inside Hamas were made clear when the resistance movement was required to take a stance as far as the Syrian crisis is concerned and the general inclination was to reject Iran’s demand that Hamas support Bashar al-Assad’s regime like Lebanon’s Hezbollah did.
“Meshaal was in the camp that favored distancing itself from Iran and Syria and getting closer to the Sunni axis represented by Turkey, Qatar, and the Palestinian president.”
That is why, he pointed out, this visit seems to have been an explicit rejection of Meshaal’s stance and that of the majority of Hamas leaders.
“This move by Haniyah and any similar moves likely to take place by Hamas leaders at home can be attributed to financial factors.”
Abusada explained that Hamas in Gaza is more in need of financial aid from external powers and that is why it is in its best interest not to contradict Iran.