Confusion in Gaza: Hamas Anxious Over Egypt Drama
By: Orouba Othman
Published Friday, July 5, 2013
Gaza – The Gaza Strip has been closely watching events unfold in Egypt, but as nothing more than a bystander. Reactions in Gaza remain in limbo; it can neither mourn the ouster of its rulers’ parent Islamist group, nor celebrate it.
Only time will tell whether Gaza will benefit or suffer from the Egyptian army’s move to expel Mohamed Mursi. In these uncertain times, Palestinians in Gaza have refrained from expressing their opinions publicly, given their rulers’ backing of the Egypt regime.
The last thing Hamas wants is to antagonize the new Egyptian president – or the anti-Brotherhood media, for that matter – lest the latter take this as fodder against Hamas.
Many concerns hound Hamas in Gaza, which fears the resurgence of the Mubarak regime’s associates and its policies, including the brutal blockade on Gaza and its people. True, the Brotherhood-led regime did not abolish the Camp David treaty and the gas agreements with Israel, shut down the Israeli embassy, or end the blockade on Gaza, but it had eased restrictions on Gaza by opening the Rafah crossing, which had been closed under Mubarak.
Observers maintain that Hamas – the same party that stood up for the Brotherhood administration, even after it flooded the Egypt-Gaza tunnels with wastewater – will only suffer from the collapse of this regime. For one thing, the freedom of movement in Egypt for Palestinians living in Gaza, granted by the Muslim Brotherhood last year, could now be a thing of the past.
Reports leaked from Cairo stated that Egyptian authorities intend to apprehend any Hamas leader who enters Egyptian territory. Meanwhile, the Egyptian army has stepped up its presence along the border with Gaza. The tunnels have been closed almost completely and the Rafah crossing is currently non-operational.
All these signs are worrisome for Hamas. Figures close to the Palestinian Islamist group fear a day when a new Israeli war on Gaza would once again be declared from Cairo, as happened in 2008 when then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni hinted at Operation Cast Lead before meeting with Mubarak.
Many also understand that last year’s Israeli assault on Gaza had a different flavor than Operation Cast Lead. In 2012, Hamas did not feel like it was fighting Israel on its own. The Brotherhood provided moral and material support, with Brotherhood Prime Minister Hisham Qandil even insisting on entering Gaza under fire.
Hamas bears all this in mind as it looks anxiously at Mursi’s downfall. For Hamas, this could mean that Egyptian media already hostile to Hamas will grow even sharper and call for its overthrow. Hamas’ political opponents see the Brotherhood’s ouster as a boon for the beginning of the end for all Islamist movements.
Rabah Mhanna, leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, spoke to Al-Akhbar. “We at the PFLP support the choice of the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people who decided to overthrow the Brotherhood regime,” he said.
Mhanna was optimistic about a post-Brotherhood Egypt. As soon as Egypt recovers, he argued, the country will be able to address issues like the blockade on Gaza. Perhaps it will begin a new chapter of supporting the Palestinian cause.
Wissam Afifeh, a political analyst, said that it was unlikely that Egypt-Gaza relations would return to their state under Mubarak. “The Egyptian political forces opposed to the Brotherhood are not interested in reproducing the blockade and reviving the image of stranded patients unable to travel outside of Gaza,” he said.
Afifeh said it was probable that the new rulers of Egypt would pressure Hamas to make some concessions in relation to reconciliation with Fatah, but discounted any sharp escalation against Hamas.
The political analyst also denied that the Brotherhood had brought any radical change in Gaza’s state of affairs, particularly the blockade. “We must wait until internal stability is restored in Egypt, before it can give attention to foreign affairs,” he said.
Afifeh reckoned that Hamas would not rush to express solidarity with the Brotherhood at this difficult time. “Hamas will deal with the de facto rulers, just like it once dealt with the Mubarak regime,” he said. “Hamas is no longer just a resistance faction, but also a ruling entity bound by the logic of interests when dealing with any future Egyptian regime.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.