The recent conflict between Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Gaza, and Damascus-based Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal demonstrates the animosity within the Hamas leadership in Gaza and Syria.
Al-Zahar demands that Hamas-Gaza be given a more authoritative role in decision-making, while the Hamas leadership abroad contends that the axis of power is better kept outside of Palestine-proper.
Since Israeli’s tragic 2005 Gaza disengagement, Hamas’ victory in the Israel-granted parliamentary elections of 2006, and Hamas’ military takeover of the region in June 2007, the Hamas government has secured notable political and economic power, as evidenced by foreign relations and has imposed taxes on imports from Israel and Egypt. The result is a deteriorated dependence of Hamas-Gaza on the Hamas leadership abroad.
Also, the consolidation of the Hamas regime in Gaza, where the central military forces of the al-Qassam Brigades are stationed, gradually has shifted the balance of power inside Hamas. Al-Zahar challenged Mashaal’s authority to lead the movement, arguing that the center of power should be moved from abroad to “inside” Palestine. After the creation of the
Palestinian Authority in1994, Fatah underwent a similar process.
The current main interest of Mashaal is to promote reconciliation with Fatah in order to pave the way for Hamas to join the PLO and take over the organization, however, such issues such as Hamas’ not backing the Abbas-led bid for statehood at the UN are prolonging the rift between the geopolitical Palestinian factions.
On May 17th, al-Zahar was asked by the Palestinian daily al-Quds for his reaction to Mashaal’s statement:
“The position of the [Hamas] movement regarding the negotiations and the resistance has not changed. We’re in favor of the way of resistance, and the way of negotiations was and still contradicts the position of the majority of the Palestinian people, who voted for Hamas in the 2006 general elections. Today, there is someone saying that we’re giving Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] the option to hold a new round of negotiations [with Israel]. We did not agree to the negotiations and we did not encourage him [Abbas] to hold negotiations. On the contrary, we embarrassed him day and night on this issue of negotiations. Therefore, what happened on the day in which the reconciliation agreement was signed was not agreed upon [within Hamas], we don’t recognize it and I think that it does not express the position of the movement, whose platform is based on resistance, not negotiations…. ”
…We did not agree to these statements and we were surprised when it was said. The world should know that there was no change in the position of the movement regarding resistance, as it is the only way. We can only negotiate issues within the framework of resistance.”