Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Mishal in Cairo…Be Careful | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Even if the recent statement made by Khalid Mishal in Cairo seemed to be open to solutions to the inter-Palestinian conflict, it should be met with caution. Past experiences have taught us that when it comes to Hamas, not all that is said is done.

Nobody knows if Mishal is convinced of his own comments or if he is playing tricks because of changes that have taken place in the region. He stated that Hamas will not stand in the way of a peace agreement being reached or the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and the return of Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, he said that he is prepared to engage in dialogue with Washington. This is nothing new as Mishal made similar comments in the past to the New York Times and there was uproar within Hamas about it. Mishal is now repeating the same thing to the Palestinians and the Arabs in Cairo so what’s changed?

There have been many changes in the region. Most prominently, there was the speech given by US President Barack Obama and the political and popular momentum that it brought about and this has raised hope for peace in our region more so than even before. There have also been changes with regards to Syria, as Damascus has resorted to a policy of composure after having serious discussions with the Americans so much so that a few weeks ago US officials reassured Palestinian officials by saying, “Don’t worry; leave the Syrians to us.”

In addition, Damascus asked Turkey to resume negotiations with Israel, bearing in mind the recent results of the Lebanese elections in which Iran and Syria’s allies were defeated. Consequently, Hamas might be sensing danger in all these changes.

The final factor is the Iranian elections and the results that they will produce. A victory for the incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be a sign of escalation that could result in war, but a win for Mir Hossein Moussavi will be equivalent to an internal review for Iran. Tehran would be preoccupied with itself for some time or with negotiations with America.

All these factors indicate that there is flexibility on Hamas’ part. However, there are reasons why we say that there must be caution. One cannot forget what Haled Mishal said on the night of the Mecca Agreement, his religious oath and his strong praise for the Saudi monarch, and yet after that disaster struck as Hamas conducted an armed coup in Gaza in which Palestinians were killing their Palestinian brothers. The fear today is that Hamas is plotting to carry out a similar coup in the West Bank, especially as there are many factors that support this idea.

Therefore, what’s important is not what Mishal says but what Mishal does. We have heard a lot from the Hamas leader and all that we have seen is the worsening of Palestinian suffering and the weakening of the Palestinian Cause.

Therefore, we must be careful of what Khalid Mishal says about being prepared to engage in dialogue with the Americans as the last thing we want is for there to be two Palestinian authorities both negotiating for one Palestinian state. For the Israelis, this would be a gift from above.

The Palestinians need to be represented by one team that has been agreed upon in order to negotiate with the Israelis and more importantly to talk to the Americans. Would it be right for Syria, for example, to be represented by two teams, one for negotiating and the other for engaging in dialogue? Of course not.