Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Post-Mubarak Egypt boosts Hamas, in Fatah guise

Let's take a step back: Eleven weeks ago, Mubarak was thrown out of office. Now, Egypt is brokering an agreement between the extremist branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and its American-funded brother, Fatah. Why now?

Egypt has been trying for over a year to settle differences between Hamas and Fatah. While a split Palestinian leadership has advantages for some, it was not viewed positively by the Mubarak regime. Mubarak, a moderate, did not need an unhindered offshoot of its own banned internal opposition, Hamas, at its doorstep. The Mubarak regime sought a deal between Hamas and Fatah that would essentially bring Hamas under Fatah's control.

Now, take Mubarak and pro-American forces out of the government, as transpired in and around Tahrir Square in February. In the black hole which is the Egyptian political sphere, the Muslim Brotherhood is the only well-organized group to lead, whether it's made official or not. Several weeks ago, it was reported that the Brotherhood is likely to capture half, if not more, of the seats in the parliament in upcoming elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas. Hamas is the offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. In other words, now that Muslim Brotherhood a la Egypt is in power, there is no more pressure on Hamas to cede concessions in a deal with Fatah. And it's not as if Fatah could care less. Fatah is no more peace-loving than Hamas; it simply chose international funding as opposed to violent struggle, but the goals and values are the same. Fatah has no hard feelings towards reconciling with Hamas--as long as the West thinks the deal leans benefits them.

In other words, with Mubarak out of the picture and the Muslim Brotherhood on the rise, Egypt can now serve as an international ally for Hamas, and Fatah has no problem joining in on the party--as long as the disguise keeps dollars and euros flowing in through the back door.

Fatah and Hamas may have overcome some of their differences, but not all: At the unity agreement signing ceremony in Cairo on Wednesday, a dispute broke out over whether Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal should sit along with Abbas on the podium, or below among other delegates.

The (alleged) text of the unity agreement has been made available by the Ramallah-based NGO Palestine Monitor.

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