5/10/2014

The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation process – the regional background

A side story of the terror attack that al-Qaeda carried out against the Assad army headquarters in the hotel in the old city of Aleppo was enabled by a tunnel that was dug beneath the hotel and the explosives were of the kind that Hizbullah supplied to Hamas in Gaza. So, the explosives and the technic of tunnels served the al-Qaeda group that committed the attack.
Before this specific attack took place the opposition groups claimed that Hamas is taking active role in war aligned with the Nusra group of al-Qaeda. They even claimed that they forced ordinary citizens to dig the tunnel under the point of the gun as slaves and many died while the labor of digging the tunnels. The Aleppo story corroborated the stories that run wild amidst the Syrian pro Assad circles about Hamas betrayal and created anti Palestinian sentiments among the Syrians by large because of their cruelty to ordinary Syrians. So, while the regime is naturally anti Hamas by definition now inside the opposition is a growing conviction that they have to detach now from the Palestinian problem and actually this is what a senior leader in the anti-Assad "Coalition" group, Dr. Kamal Labwani, is preaching for in the open. He is repeatedly saying now that it is better to give the Golan to Israel in return for Israeli help to topple Assad.
While Hamas is actively aligned with al-Qaeda and this phenomenon is explicit in the Yarmuk refugee camp- where the Nusra group is basically composed of Hamas commanders that are personally connected to Khaled Mash'al http://www.ertikaz.org/?q=node/18455 the PLO is connected with the regime. The PLO forces are clashing in Yarmuk with Hamas aligned al-Qaeda and PLO formal delegates, such as Zakariya al-Agha and the Abbas Zaki are frequent visitors in Assad palace.
What does it mean in practical terms? It means that the regional envelope does not support a real reconciliation process to fly. It has its limited local goals—to help Hamas to reopen the Rafah border gate and regulate it- not much beyond that. So, what is expected of the unity government- once established – is basically to give the legitimacy to Rafah border crossing versus Egypt. That's why- unlike the Doha agreement – in the Shati agreement the element of elections is blurred while immediately after the signing the PA unit that is about to take control on Rafah crossing was already dispatched to Gaza.
However, as a matter of fact a concrete move to launch the negotiations to compose the new government is yet to start. Abu Mazen returned now from talks in Qatar and very much depends on Qatar readiness to finance the new government that in its turn much depends on the regional environment.
Qatar is a "black sheep" in the Gulf. While the Gulf is uncompromisingly anti Moslem Brothers, and hence anti Hamas, Qatar is a pillar in supporting Moslem Brothers even in the context of financing the Hamas-aligned Nusra group not only in Syria, but in Egypt, Mali etc. and the Saudis may even suspect that the new Qaeda groups that were found in Saudi Arabia coming from Syria are actually Qatari-financed . Hence, Qatari backing to reconciliation may backfire on the Palestinian Authority from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia part. Already now they prefer Dahlan- Abu Mazen's arch enemy inside Fatah- on him. The moment they will define Qatar as the source of the al-Qaeda subversive activity in their territories it may trigger dangerous consequences for Qatar—after all—also Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have inroads to al-Qaeda groups…
Egypt, Saudi Arabia's main ally in the Arab world already defined Qatar as enemy and already linked Hamas subversion to Qatar and it looks like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are on the brink to follow suit. So, under this environment to be quick in accepting Qatari aid may require second thoughts in Ramallah.
These regional tectonic frictions also affect disagreements inside Hamas. While Khaled Mash'al, the leader who is sitting in Doha is promoting the ties with anti Hizbullah/Assad a-Nusra, the local a-Zahhar is pro-Iranian and his Qassam Brigades are tightly linked to Iran. Time will tell to what extent this may affect future Hamas integrity.

Sum up: the regional envelop does not support the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas, and as for now no concrete move is taken yet to activate the Shati agreement. The only strong interest is to regulate the Rafah crossing and the chances to compose the government are linked to this interest. In Syria – Fatah is on the side of Assad while Hamas is on the side of Nusra and the reconciliation process endorsed by Qatar may well backfire by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.