International Crisis Group: “Light at the End of the Tunnel? Hamas and the Arab Spring”
International Crisis Group recently released a report entitled ”Light at the End of the Tunnel? Hamas and the Arab Spring” on how the Arab uprisings have created new opportunities for the Gazan political party, and why this has created an ideal moment for the West to engage Hamas.
The political changes across the Middle East throughout the Arab Spring have led to a dramatic improvement of Hamas’s prospects, but as ICG reports, these benefits have not come without a cost. While the rise of Islamist groups region wide, especially Hamas’s closest supporter the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, bode well for Hamas’s interests of strengthening their hold in Gaza and weakening Fatah in the West Bank, the conflict in Syria has presented numerous challenges. One the one hand, Hamas could disavow a regime that had been a strong supporter, with the added risk of antagonizing the group’s largest supporter Iran. On the other, Hamas has their Sunni allies to think of, as well as their strong relations with the Syrian people.
The dilemma, involving hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Syria, has exposed internal geographic, political, ideological, and personal divides that had gone unaddressed due to the political impasse in Gaza prior to the Arab Spring. With the political momentum in the region going in Hamas’s favor, internal divisions exist between those who think the group should wait for the Palestinian Authority to weaken, and those who believe this change may be fleeting and thus demands decisive action.
ICG recommends that the U.S extend its broader engagement of Islamist groups to include Hamas, and in doing so work in conjunction with allies like Egypt to pursue tangible and meaningful goals. Working on steps like a cease fire with Israel or a unity deal with the West Bank are essential for establishing a future peace settlement and two state solution.