Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Meshaal returns to take a firmer hold on Hamas

The return of Khaled Meshaal, strengthened by the short-term withdrawal of his candidacy, is good news for Hamas, the Palestinians, and the hope of peace.

Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas's political bureau, has reversed his decision to step down. Whether this is a genuine change of heart or the springing of a slick political trap, it is best understood as good news for the Palestinians and the cause of peace.

Mr Meshaal, who has led Hamas's political wing since 1996, said in January that he would not seek re-election this year. The announcement was greeted with shock by Hamas members and by analysts, who concluded that Mr Meshaal's personal authority had been so reduced by his efforts at reform - including a new emphasis on unarmed struggle against Israel - that he was ready to give up.

Now, however, his move looks more like a way of sidelining internal opponents by making Hamas reflect on its relative weakness without him.

Mr Meshaal has proved himself a smart political operator in the difficult context of the Arab uprisings. He deftly moved Hamas's offices from Syria as that country descended into violence, and refused to endorse Bashar Al Assad. He tried to solidify links with Islamist organisations in Egypt and Tunisia, and moved the political office of Hamas to Qatar.

More importantly - and controversially - for Palestinians, Mr Meshaal has tried to mend the rift between Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

A unified Palestinian political voice is essential to any hope of reviving the moribund peace process; indeed the Hamas-Fatah discord has allowed Israel to argue that there is no unified Palestinian authority with which to negotiate.

A reconciled Hamas and Fatah would remove that excuse; indeed considering Israel's intransigence in recent years, Palestinian unity would expose Israel as the side least interested in meaningful negotiation.

But moving in that direction demands great courage from anyone aspiring to lead, or keep leading, Hamas. Powerful factions in Gaza have a profitable interest in the status quo.

Mr Meshaal's move promises to make him more secure in office, which would be a positive step toward the ultimate negotiated solution with Israel which is the only tolerable one.

Palestinian politics is always played in the shadow of regional political trends, and Israel's arrogance and bullying persistently poison the well of peace.

But Mr Meshaal has shown himself to have the right instincts in a rapidly changing region, and as things are Hamas - and the Palestinian people - stand to benefit from his return.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 An tenant in the Al Barsha area of Dubai has been sent a non-renewable contract by the landlord. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Dubai landlord refuses to pay back Rera fees after losing rent case

Keren Bobker helps a tenant who wants to know how to reclaim his RERA case fees and who has also been sent a contract with a “one-year nonrenewable” note.

 A Brabus Mercedes 6x6 Sports Utility Vehicle is readied for display during Auto China 2014 in Beijing, on April 20. Adrian Bradshaw / EPA

In pictures: Auto China 2014 exhibition

Leading automakers have gathered in Beijing for the kickoff of China’s biggest car show, but lacklustre growth and environmental restrictions in the world’s largest car market have thrown uncertainty into the mix. More than 1,100 vehicles are being showcased.

 A customer looks at a large mock-up of videogame console Game Boy.  Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP Photo

Nintendo’s Game Boy at 25: hand-held legacy lives on

Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary Monday with the portable device’s legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans.

 Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Sterling and Suarez inspire Liverpool to win over Norwich City

The win takes the Premier League table-toppers to 80 points from 35 games.

 A projectionist takes a break in the projection room at Ariana Cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan. Going to the movies, once banned under the Taliban, has become a popular form of entertainment in Kabul, but women and children rarely take part. All photos by Photo by Jonathan Saruk / Reportage by Getty Images

Afghan cinema: Forbidden Reel

The lights go down and the projector whirls into action as Sher Mohammed, 35, begins his routine, bouncing back and forth between two projectors, winding reels, and adjusting the carbon arc lamps inside the projectors.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National