I was fascinated to see this video. Here Khaled Meshaal answers many of the questions that have left me perplexed:
- why did he move his headquarters from Damascus to Doha?
- What went wrong between him and Bashar el-Assad
- Why is Hamas supporting the ‘Free Syrian Army’
Meshaal answers each question succinctly. Whether he answers them truthfully of course is another question. He claims that, despite all appearances to the contrary, he has not switched sides in the Syrian conflict, and yet he is living now in the very heart of FSA territory!
Meshaal is also questioned about whether Hamas still denies ‘Israel’s right to exist’. He answers like a true politician, but truly it is an offensive question. No one ever demands of the Israelis that they acknowledge Palestine’s right to exist. Indeed, all the indications are that they don’t and never will unless they are forced to.
If you can’t view this video, click here.
This is an insightful and well-written article. Certainly negotiating with Hamas is the only way forward.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if there is a radical faction and a moderate faction you should always negotiate with the radical faction first. If you can reach agreement with the radicals, the moderates will join you too. If you only reach agreement with the moderates, you still have the radicals to deal with.
It is true that Hamas’ charter is horribly anti-Semitic. Even so, as the author points out, Mashal has shown himself to be a pragmatist and does not seem to be bound by the charter. My first martial arts instructor taught me “Your mouth can lie but your body can’t lie”. It’s true. Regardless of the words of any charter, the important thing is what Hamas actually does, and there is every indication that Hamas is willing to be realistic about accepting a tw0-state solution within the pre-1967 borders. The real question is whether Israel is willing to accept this.
Khalid Mishal and Hamas Are Keys to the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Earlier this week, the Shura council of Hamasre-elected Khalid Mishal as the political head of their organization for a fourth straight time. Last year Mishal had vowed to step down from his post which many criticized within the party, asserting that he stay at the helm.
With the election of Khalid Mishal, Hamas has shown its willingness to be more pragmatic, further asserting the need to include it in future negotiations on the decades long conflict.
Mishal’s ascendancy to the highest office was sparked by Israel’s attempt to assassinate him back in 1997. Under direct orders from then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad planned a hit on Mishal while he was residing in Jordan at the time. The incident caused an international uproar, requiring a direct intervention by President Bill Clinton. Ever since, Mishal’s repute amongst Palestinians has reached new heights with every passing year.
While Mishal has been leading the organization since a good part of the last decade, he returned to Gaza last year for the first time in 45 years, welcomed by thousands of his supporters, displaying the height of his unquestionable popularity. Prominent analysts and critics have highlighted Mishal’s unique role in brandishing the image of Hamas from one consisting of an army of suicide bombers to a democratic entity that deserves a say in the future of its fellow Palestinians.
While many now see Hamas’s rise and evolution as promising, prospects of negotiating with the group has been futile. The Israeli government has had a zero tolerance policy towards Hamas, who they consistently accuse of seeking to destroy Israel, citing Hamas’s manifesto. Following cue, the Americans have shut any doors to including Hamas regarding negotiations on Israeli settlements and Israel-Palestine peace deals.
Mishal has never moved away from the position that resistance, and armed resistance is a right for Palestinians as long as the occupation continues. Mishal has supported suicide bombings and rocket launches into Israel, justifying the attacks as a legitimate source of opposition to the brutal tactics of the Israeli state. Many in Hamas describe it as an act of desperation in the face overwhelming Israeli military power.
However, since Hamas’ rise to power, and especially after their election win in 2006, it has readily abandoned the practice of suicide bombing in the past years, citing it to be detrimental to their cause. Nevertheless, in November last year, they threatened to renew the practice in retaliation to the highly provocative killing of one their top commanders by the Israeli establishment. Mishal and Hamas have also successfully negotiated and maintained several ceasefires with the Israeli state. Before the Gaza war started in December 2008, Hamas had respected the ongoing ceasefire for around six months before it was broken, its cause remaining disputed.
read the rest of this article here: www.policymic.com…
This is a tragic situation, and we can appreciate the frustration all round. The people of Gaza are frustrated because they are desperately poor. The managers of the UN relief work are frustrated because they fear for the safety of their staff when the frustration of their clients boils over into violence. The authorities in Gaza are frustrated because they know their people badly need the assistance that the UN relief agency gives them.
Evidently what is required here for everybody concerned is a concrete political solution. Even so, this doesn’t make the short-term welfare needs any less serious.
Palestinian Tensions Simmer Ahead of Kerry Visit
GAZA — Islamist group Hamas on Friday urged a United Nations agency to resume its operations in the Gaza Strip, accusing the world body of over-reacting by shutting down after its headquarters was stormed by demonstrators.
The main U.N. humanitarian agency for Palestinians closed all its offices in Gaza on Thursday after protesters stormed its headquarters to demand it reverse a decision to cut an annual $40 handout to the poorest Gazans.
The dispute comes against a broader backdrop of growing Palestinian unrest in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with no end in sight to the decades-old Middle East conflict.
- April 6: Istanbul, Turkey for talks with senior officials
- April 7-9: Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders
- April 10-11: London for the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting
- April 12: Seoul, South Korea
- April 13: Beijing, China
- April 14: Tokyo, Japan
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to return to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy on Sunday, with meetings scheduled in both Ramallah and Jerusalem from April 7-9, just two weeks after President Barack Obama’s first visit to the region.
Like Obama before him, Kerry is not expected to bring any new initiative to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010.
The past week saw violent clashes between youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, which raised fears that a new uprising, or Intifada, might be brewing. There were reports of sporadic confrontations on Friday, but not on the same scale as earlier in the week.
In another sign of the tensions, rockets were fired out of Gaza for three days running this week, while Israeli warplanes carried out their first strike on the territory since November.
The storming of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in Gaza on Thursday was part of a dispute that has been brewing for weeks and was not tied to diplomatic events, but it laid bare the frustration brewing amongst Palestinians.
UNRWA provides assistance in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank to Palestinian refugees and their descendants — now put at some five million spread across myriad camps.
The agency has said it will not resume work in Gaza, including food distribution to 800,000 Palestinians — nearly half the enclave’s population — unless it receives assurances from Hamas over the safety of its staff.
“People are demonstrating because they’re frustrated and the situation in Gaza just seems to be getting worse,” said Robert Turner, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza.
“We respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest, but what happened yesterday was unacceptable,” he told Reuters, saying initial reports suggested up to 200 demonstrators, some carrying iron rods, had forced their way into the UNRWA compound.
Hamas called the closure of UNRWA offices “unjustified.”
“When UNRWA’s administration called Palestinian security they arrived, restored calm and ended the state of chaos,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “Therefore, we urge UNRWA to rethink its decision.”
Turner said UNRWA faced a $68 million shortfall in 2013 and took the decision to cut the $40 annual handout to 106,000 Gaza refugees to save some $5.5 million. To soften the blow, the agency was offering job schemes to help the poorest families.
News that food centers had been shut down shocked Gaza.
“If UNRWA closes down the food distribution centers, it would lead to a disaster,” said Fathi Al-Seidi, 30, who lives in a refugee camp. He added that locals were dependent on the UNRWA aid and cash from Western-backed authorities in the West Bank.
“Without this, life will be equal to zero,” he said.
U.N. officials said UNRWA appeared to be bearing the brunt of disillusionment in Gaza that followed a short-lived spurt of optimism last November when a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel raised hopes of an easing of restrictions on the enclave.
Israel, supported by Egypt, imposes a partial trade blockade on Gaza, saying it is needed to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has not renounced violence.
Since the November truce, which ended eight days of fighting, the restrictions have barely changed while Egypt has launched a crackdown on illegal smuggling tunnels into Gaza.
Underscoring Hamas’s difficulties, the group’s leader Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday it faced a “financial problem,” suggesting Arab allies were not providing sufficient aid.
Certainly Khaled Mashaal would not have been the most militant or anti-Israel of candidates for the leadership of Hamas, but this is precisely the problem for the Netanyahu government. Mashaal is a pragmatist who enjoys broad international support. He could make it more difficult for Israel to continue to block the path to a ‘two-state solution’. Moreover, he is well placed to build a unity government with his Palestinian rivals in Fatah.
His choice of Qatar as a base for operations is curious! Qatar has emerged as the avenue through which troops and guns are being channeled into Syria to aid the rebellion! Mashaal’s support for the Syrian rebels is well known, but such support compromises his relationship with regional super-power Iran, and one might have expected him to be a little more covert in his loyalties.
Hamas re-elects Khaled Mashaal
Qatar-based Palestinian leader wins four-year term capping a year of internal elections spread over several countries
The Islamic militant group Hamas on Monday re-elected longtime leader Khaled Mashaal, according to officials, choosing a relative pragmatist who has sparred with movement hardliners in the past over his attempt to reconcile with western-backed Palestinian rivals.
The secretive group did not issue an announcement, but Mashaal’s re-election was confirmed by two Hamas officials. The vote late on Monday capped a year of internal elections spread over several countries and shrouded in mystery.
Qatar-based Mashaal, 56, has led Hamas since 1996 and now has another four-year term. He ran unopposed and won the support of a majority in Hamas’s shura council, which has about 60 members, said the two Hamas officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss the secret election with reporters.
Mashaal enjoys the backing of Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, countries where Hamas’s parent movement, the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood, is influential.
It is not clear if his re-election will give him enough clout to pursue reconciliation or if hardliners, particularly those based in the Gaza Strip, will be able to veto a deal.
Hamas wrested Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas, the internationally backed Palestinian president, in 2007, leaving him with only parts of the West Bank. The rivals have established separate governments that have become increasingly entrenched in their respective territories.
Last year, Mashaal and Abbas, who have cordial relations, reached a deal whereby Abbas would head an interim government of technocrats in the West Bank and Gaza. This would have paved the way for general elections.
However, the deal never got off the ground because of opposition from Hamas leaders in Gaza and senior figures in Abbas’s Fatah movement. Hamas leaders in Gaza were particularly vehement in their objections, apparently fearing a deal would give Abbas a foothold in Gaza and weaken Hamas’s grip on the territory.
Last week, the emir of Qatar proposed holding a reconciliation conference in Egypt in coming weeks to set up a timetable for forming the interim government and holding elections.
Mashaal’s re-election could further distance Hamas from long-time patron Iran, which has supplied cash and weapons to the Hamas government in Gaza. Hamas broke with another long-time ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, more than a year ago, over Assad’s brutal crackdown on a popular revolt that turned into an armed insurgency.
Mashaal’s relations with Iran cooled after he refused to back Assad, an Iranian ally, and Mashaal last visited Tehran in November 2011.
Other senior Hamas figures continue to visit Tehran and ties have not broken off, but Mashaal has found a new home in Qatar, one of Iran’s regional rivals.
Hamas was founded in Gaza in 1987, as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It has four components: activists in Gaza, in the West Bank, in exile and those imprisoned by Israel. In the internal elections, each of the four groups chose local leaders as well as delegates to the shura council.
This council selects a decision-making political bureau and the head of that body – the stage that was wrapped up in Cairo on Monday. Details about the composition of the political bureau were not available Monday.
Mashaal is seen as a member of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas, in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He and others in Hamas insist the movement will not recognize Israel and renounce violence – Western conditions for dealing with Hamas.
Mashaal has suggested he could accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, though he has not said if such a state would end the conflict, or be an interim step to an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.
Mashaal has also come out in support of so-called popular resistance against Israeli occupation, a term Palestinians use for marches and stone-throwing protests. In previous rounds of conflict, Hamas gunmen and suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks.