Hamas Rift Opens Over Fatah Deal
A move to unite with the rival Fatah party in a Palestinian government has opened up a split in Hamas.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met Sunday with Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, who called Iran a ‘strategic reserve’ for the Palestinians.
The discord escalated this past weekend as Gaza leader Mahmoud al-Zahar criticized an agreement last week by exiled political chief, Khaled Meshal, to end a five-year rift with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. The accord named Mr. Abbas head of an interim power-sharing government, instead of naming a prime minister from Gaza, as Hamas initially demanded. Mr. Zahar told Egypt’s official news agency that the pact was mistake.
The Hamas rift could make it harder to end divided Palestinian rule over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It also illustrates how Islamists in the region are struggling with broader Mideast upheaval, even as they expect to wield widening influence. The Hamas disputes are likely to be debated at a coming meeting of Hamas’s governing Shura council.
Mr. Meshal, displaced from his longtime headquarters in Syria by the upheaval there, has tried to widen Palestinian diplomatic engagement in the Arab world and with the West. He has embraced Mr. Abbas and said Hamas should focus on nonviolent, grass-roots protests against Israel rather than on military conflict.
Mr. Meshal has sought to relocate to Arab capitals with ties to the U.S., which would be a blow to Syria and Iran.
But Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, over the weekend visited Iran, which has supplied Gaza with military equipment and trained Hamas militants. On Saturday, Mr. Haniyeh appeared with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has defied Western concerns about his country’s nuclear program.