Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s decision to step down from the leadership of the Islamist Palestinian group comes at a crucial moment. KM held the oars for over 15 years and has much to show in this period during which Hamas emerged as probably the most powerful voice of liberation. He had a major role in building the Hamas’ axis with Syria and Iran.
But all that is changing. His relocation from Damascus where he lived in exile in the wake of the upheaval in that country is much more than symbolic or a mere matter of logistics. KM has a cosmopolitan outlook and is pragmatic. The consensus is that he probably feels frustrated with the Gaza leadership of Hamas. In a matrix where the leader lives in exile for a prolonged period cut off from the cut and thrust of the grass root politics, alienation can set in. Obviously, Gaza cadres are averse to reconciling with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
It seems KM is moving on. Cairo beckons him. But would he seek a bigger role within the Muslim Brotherhood? Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood. Or, will he assume a leadership role in the PLO as part of a unity deal? It cannot be that a charismatic leader like KM is walking into the sunset. Conceivably, Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi may also have a say
The Palestinian cause is languishing lately. The Arab Spring has taken over regional politics, and regional powers are bogged down in existential issues. Israel is getting a huge reprieve insofar as the Palestine issue has taken a back seat.
Ironically, Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt was a broker of Israel-Palesine contacts. But the New Egypt can’t (or won’t) play that role. The paradox is that Hamas is hugely well off with the Brothers in power in Cairo, although Israel-Palestine track has tapered off. No doubt, the balance has further tipped against Fatah.
On the other hand, Hamas’ Gaza leadership, enthralled by the regional ascendancy of the Brotherhood
, would have now even less impetus to reconcile with Fatah. As for the international community, it too has priorities against the backdrop of the revolutionary climate in the Middle East. Woven into this is the Iran question, Saudi suspicions of the Brothers, decline of US’ regional influence, etc. The Arab Spring has done israel a favor - for the moment, at least.