A regular survey of experts on matters relating to Middle Eastern and North African politics and security.
Hani Masri | Director-general of Masarat, the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies
Qatar maintains close ties with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, while also hosting Hamas’ leadership in Doha. In this context, we can understand
the significance of the visit of a Hamas delegation to Cairo a day after the outbreak of the Gulf crisis, and its agreeing to Egyptian security conditions. This led to the reopening of the Rafah crossing, allowing Egyptian goods and fuel to enter Gaza.
Here was a change in the policy of Egypt, which had preferred to deal with Gaza through the Palestinian Authority. The change was explained by Egyptian anger at Abbas’ refusal to reintegrate Mohammad Dahlan—the former head of the Preventive Security Force in Gaza and now an ally of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—into Fatah’s Central Committee, and the Palestinian president’s punitive actions against Gaza, despite Cairo’s warning that an explosion there could harm Egyptian interests.
Egypt, the UAE, and other states opposing Qatar seek to take Gaza out of Qatar’s orbit. That explains the coincidence of the Egyptian agreement with Hamas and the understandings
reached between Hamas and Dahlan, the Islamic movement’s old enemy, whose implementation could lead to a new partnership in Gaza and the emergence of a strong alignment against Abbas. This would deepen Palestinian divisions, with Dahlan’s return hastening the battle over Abbas’ succession. Israel would be the biggest beneficiary. It would exploit Palestinian divisions to claim that there is no Palestinian partner, thus implementing its plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
Nathan Brown | Non-resident senior fellow in the Carnegie Middle East program, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, and co-author of the recent Carnegie report Revitalizing Palestinian Nationalism: Options Versus Realities
It is very old news—dating back to 1948 if not earlier—that Arab states fight their rivals on the turf of internal Palestinian politics. However, since the 1960s Palestinian national leaders have built a set of institutions (the different political factions, the Palestine National Congress, the Palestinian National Authority) or seized control of others (the Palestine Liberation Organization) to cope with such meddling and preserve some ability for the Palestinians
to act for themselves.
The current round of intervention in Palestinian affairs by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, and others is a return to an era when those institutions were weak or did not exist. It is a product not only of the new Arab proxy wars but also of the decay of Palestinian institutions that now facilitate rather than resist such meddling. Hamas and the Palestinian National
Authority, the newest elements in the Palestinian institutional makeup, actively allow others to write Palestine’s future.
However, the current round of intervention is worse for Palestinians than its counterpart a half-century ago, when outside actors at least evinced a pretense of commitment to the Palestinian cause. Today’s meddlers benefit no identifiable Palestinian interest.
James Dorsey | Senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, syndicated columnist, and author of the blog,
The short answer is that the jury is still out. What is clear is that Hamas has been left out from the list of organizations drafted by the Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led alliance opposed to Qatar. This was done as an incentive to push the Islamist group to accept a power-sharing agreement in the Gaza Strip that would allow the return of Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of the Preventive Security Force there. Dahlan is an Abu Dhabi-based arch-rival of
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has close ties to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Dahlan’s ambition is to succeed Abbas. Lower salaries for public-sector employees in Gaza paid by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) and reduced Israeli energy supplies to the strip at the PA’s behest have caught Hamas in a pincer movement imposed by Abbas, Israel, Egypt, and the UAE. As a result, it has been forced to turn for help to Egypt, a UAE and Saudi ally, and to enter into talks with Dahlan about a power-sharing agreement. Hamas is caught between a rock and a hard place. Continued economic pressure undermines its ability to rule. Surrendering any degree of control over Gaza undermines its power base. In short, whichever way the Gulf crisis is resolved, Hamas’ position and standing are likely to be impacted.