Analysis: Hamas wants bigger regional role

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Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal has set an ambitious agenda for his new term, seeking to transform his Islamic militant movement that rules Gaza into a widely recognized political force, but without making concessions toward Israel needed for international acceptance.

Re-elected last week, Mashaal will try to deepen ties with regional powers Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, which have already given money or political support to Hamas-run Gaza and could be conduits to the U.S. and Europe, several leading Hamas figures said. Mashaal will also push for a power-sharing deal with his Western-backed Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas ideology, rejecting existence of a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East, stands in the way. The international community insists it will deal with Hamas only if the Islamic militants recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous interim peace deals — conditions Mashaal has repeatedly rejected, though Abbas and his Fatah movement accepted them two decades ago.

Mashaal “wants Hamas to be a recognized and legitimate player,” said Jordan-based analyst Mouin Rabbani, who frequently meets with Palestinian politicians, including Hamas members.

“The challenge and conflict is that he has to demonstrate he can do so without going down the same path as Fatah,” he said. Fatah, for years the dominant force in Palestinian politics, has been severely weakened by years of failed talks with Israel on terms of a Palestinian state.

Key to Mashaal’s plans is a political deal with Abbas, as a possible springboard for joining and eventually taking control of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group widely recognized as representing some 11.6 million Palestinians world-wide, according to official Palestinian figures. The Fatah-dominated PLO is largely inactive now, but it remains attractive to Hamas as a way of gaining international status.

A Hamas deal with Abbas would have to wait until the latest U.S. push to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations plays itself out.

Setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem through negotiations with Israel remains Abbas’ goal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the region this week to try to restart talks between Israel and Abbas. Chances of that in coming months appear slim because gaps remain wide between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas won’t complicate Kerry’s mission further by renewing talks now

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

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