The resistance movement, which has administered Gaza since 2007, did not previously anticipate that the presence of some of its leaders in Qatar would constitute a matter of concern. Qatar’s embrace of the movement, by hosting some of its political leaders in Doha, provided some security and stability for Hamas to build its political platforms and regional relations.
Over the past few years, Hamas has been able to adapt to the Arab region’s reality, in light of the popular uprisings that swept the region, and it survived – albeit with many losses – the sharp turning points that exhausted the movement and affected its alliances and capabilities. The current crisis, however, seems to be the most difficult in the movement’s history.
For the first time since its inception, Hamas is facing both an internal and an external crisis, and finds itself facing a barrage of events, like a storm, without having the power to secure its place.
Internally, Hamas is facing mounting pressure with the deteriorating living situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, compounded by the Palestinian Authority’s recent decisions to cut electricity supply and medicine as a result of the stalled political crisis between Hamas and the PA.
When the US President Donald Trump made his remarks last month, labelling Hamas a “terrorist organisation” during a summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Hamas mistakenly thought it was nothing more than a conventional statement in the world of politics.
But the movement was taken aback by the Gulf crisis that has placed the expulsion of its leaders from Qatar on the top of the agenda for solving the crisis. Hamas officials were also shocked by the recent Saudi foreign minister’s statements which characterised it as a “terrorist movement”.
Hamas has realised that a preplanned campaign was being implemented and that a new reality was being created in the region forcing it to re-examine its presence and political position on the external level.
In the new anti-Hamas atmosphere forming in the Arab region, Hamas’ options are dwindling in an unprecedented manner.
Hamas has lost its Islamist allies, which formed the backbone of its future hopes and aims; the movement lost its Iranian ally when the Syrian uprising broke out and Hamas chose to ally with the anti-government camp, leaving the movement with its Qatari ally.
it also lost its financial resources by the closure of the tunnels and the tightening of the Israeli blockade on the Strip.
Despite that, Hamas’ perseverance and its military might in Gaza have allowed it to maintain its momentum over the years. But Hamas may no longer be able to sustain itself, for the factors which allowed it to continue may no longer be sufficient in the face of a multi-pronged plan.
Hamas is aware that the Gulf crisis may stifle the movement, but the presence of the movement’s upper echelons in Gaza after the recent internal elections, in which Gaza-based Ismail Haniya was elected head of the movement’s political bureau, gives Hamas a margin it can rely on to circumvent the current crisis and come out of it with minimal losses.
The movement’s options in the post-Gulf crisis period seem to be extremely limited.
Previously, Hamas was not prepared to entertain any idea related to the normalisation of relations with Abbas and Fatah in recent days. The political and media wars between the two parties have reached a dangerous level. This comes against the backdrop of pressure exerted by Abbas to give up governance in Gaza to the PA, and allowing the unity government to perform its functions in Gaza without obstacles.
But turning to Abbas and Fatah no longer seems to be a matter of choice for the resistance movement. Resolving the conflict between Fatah and Hamas could cast a positive light on the external crisis that Hamas is facing.
The Hamas delegation’s visit to Egypt, headed by Yahya al-Sinwar, the movement’s leader in Gaza, could offer an opportunity to restore its national balance and internal stability.
The Egyptian advice given to the movement was focused on ending the division between Fatah and Hamas as quickly as possible.
There is no doubt that the negative legacy of the internal Palestinian division is complex. However, the complication of the regional and international scene makes reconciliation with Abbas and Fatah the better of two evils for the movement, according to its vision.
Despite the risks associated with its alliance with Iran, Hamas is not in a position to abandon its Iranian ally, which is expected to provide financial support for its programmes and activities.
The relations are expected to grow even warmer in the coming period.
There are two potential scenarios that may arise for Hamas in the current stage.
The first scenario would see Hamas completely depend on Iran and make no moves to emerge from the current political deadlock by reconciling with Abbas and Fatah.
There is no doubt that this scenario completely disregards the regional and international changes taking place, and contains challenges that the Hamas movement would not be able to take on.
In this case, it would not be unlikely to see a tightening of the blockade on the movement, and the possible official designation as a “terrorist” movement, to the point where it would be subject to a painful Israeli military attack in Gaza.
As for the second scenario – which is the most likely one – is that Hamas will lean towards political accommodation and reach a compromise deal with Abbas and Fatah that will allow the return of PA power in Gaza again. This option will not mean a disintegration of Hamas’ alliance with Iran.
Instead, it could ease regional and international pressures against the movement to the lowest possible level, and avoid the disastrous consequences of an Israeli military raid on Gaza.
In short, Hamas today is in a race against time to escape the coming storm and to rectify the dangers of the recent developments. It will now be forced to determine the direction it will take in dealing with the current political circumstances and its repercussions.