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Egypt and Hamas: Ties that Bind - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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No doubt an observer of the nature of relations between Egypt and Hamas can determine the direction of its compass and recognize its features, but would very much hesitate to speculate about its prospected scenarios or where they would end. That is because many determinants have imposed themselves on the nature of this relationship and left it fluctuating between flood and ebb tide.

The nature of relations between Egypt and Hamas is governed and influenced by many factors. Hamas was born from the womb of the Muslim Brotherhood. It defied regional and international calculations and won the Palestinian legislative elections. It fought against the military rebellion in Gaza and suppressed it after several coup attempts against Hamas’s legitimacy and attempts to exclude it. Add to this, Egypt’s role in the truce with Israel, the issue of Israeli captive Shalit, the Rafah crossing, and the Palestinian dialogue. But Hamas has not tried to change its outlook on the nature of the relationship or its policies in dealing with Egypt. That is perhaps because Hamas has a clear strategy in dealing with Arab countries and other states in the world, Egypt in particular. This strategy is based on respect for sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of states and that the Israeli occupiers are the main enemy. In other words our strategy is based on the principle “we will not be in anybody’s pocket.” Hamas has benefited in this respect from the experience of Fatah and the PLO, which often allowed themselves to become tools in the hands of Arab and international regimes and intervened in the internal affairs of state. The Palestinian people paid a high price for that policy, such as in Tal-al-Za’tar in Lebanon, Black September in Jordan, the Lebanese civil war, the war on Palestinian camps in Lebanon, as well as in the Gulf war.

We can safely say that Hamas’s strategy is constant; it does not and will not be changed, despite all the internal and external tensions that were akin to earthquakes for Hamas. On its part, Egypt has taken some unilateral steps that I believe were ill-advised, foremost among which is its decision to withdraw the security delegation stationed in Gaza, despite the good relations they had with Hamas, which regarded them as pivotal in solving many differences between Fatah and Hamas. Another is the transfer of the Egyptian Embassy from Gaza to the West Bank, although Egypt was convinced of the correctness of Hamas’s action and its right to defend its legitimacy and democratic choice of the Palestinian people.

Moreover, the Egyptian media campaign against Hamas with the aim of discrediting the credibility of its position and reputation and pushing it into the heat of a sterile debate; particularly after the Palestinian masses in Gaza pushed toward the Egyptian border when all doors were shut before them and they had nowhere else to go. They found safety in the neighboring country and its good people who stood by them. I do not believe that was a crime that justified the attack by the Egyptian official media. They could have registered a national Arab humanitarian and moral stand that would have made the Palestinian people feel in their debt forever, instead of the threatening language used by the Egyptian foreign minister who stood alone in this respect.

Hamas criticizes Egypt’s stand when it deals with Hamas only from a purely security perspective, or when it prevents volunteers and solidarity delegations from reaching Gaza, or when we press our demand that Egypt fulfill its promises and keep the Rafah crossing open when all Palestinian organizations were abiding by the terms and conditions of the truce with Israel. But this should not be regarded as tension in the relations between Egypt and Hamas. It is only natural that we demand what is ours by right and urge Egypt and others to fulfill their obligations to the Palestinian people.

The question that poses itself here is why should Hamas pay the price all the time in terms of its relations with Egypt or other states? Why if we win the elections, defend our legitimacy, reject the Zionist-American schemes, refuse to recognize the occupier and insist on resisting it, they complain bitterly, while those who conspire against Hamas and its legitimacy, plan to return to Gaza on board Israeli tanks and say ‘yes’ to all US-Zionist dictates, are treated with interest and respect in Egypt? Egypt has embraced the leaders of the military coup and given them safe haven to do what they wish in Cairo; even though some of them were criminals who murdered many people in Gaza, including scientists, journalists and mosque imams. Yet they were the very people who obstructed the Cairo understanding, destroyed the Mecca accords, and withdrew from the Sanaa declaration.

Does Hamas have to abolish its legitimacy, renounce its people and popularity, pardon the criminals and fugitives avoiding law and justice, agree to the return of the Israeli occupiers to the Rafah crossing and return to the state of chaos, corruption and insecurity that prevailed before in Gaza? Does it have to do this in order to appease Egypt and have diplomatic relations like those enjoyed by everyone who wishes to have Hamas removed from the Palestinian political equation? However, it has to be stated that Hamas’s strategy is abundantly clear to Egypt, as well as to anyone else. Hamas will not be in anybody’s pocket, despite its interest in having strong and distinguished relations with Egypt, as well as with other states. Hamas will defend its legitimacy, its people and its resistance. No one in his right mind would agree to return to the former state of chaos, violence, insecurity, and corruption.

On the other hand, Hamas cares about having good relations with Egypt in the same way as it cares about itself and the interests of its people. The relationship with Egypt will not be affected by rumors and irritations. It should be made clear that Hamas trusts Egypt, cares about the Egyptian role and is endeavoring to develop this relationship, and insists on Egypt’s role in all matters of concern, especially the Palestinian dialogue, prisoners, and ‘calming.’

Fawzi Barhoum

Fawzi Barhoum

Fawzi Barhoum is a spokesman for the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS).

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