Egypt, Jordan press Hamas to show consistency and refrain from disruptive stances

Washington is setting its conditions for accepting Hamas in the political negotiations.
Saturday 29/05/2021
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (C) arrives in the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with Palestinian officials over the latest confrontation between Israel and the Hamas movement, on May 24, 2021. (AFP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (C) arrives in the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with Palestinian officials over the latest confrontation between Israel and the Hamas movement, on May 24, 2021. (AFP)

CAIRO/ AMMAN – The visit to Egypt of Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau offers an opportunity for rapprochement between the two sides and will enable Cairo, which has regained its regional role, to influence issues having to do with Hamas.

But sources in Cairo said that Egyptian officials are no longer prepared to deal with an undisciplined Hamas whose leaders would agree on Egypt’s mediation one minute and the next go out and make contradictory statements, one praising Iran, another Turkey and a third Qatar and then come back to Egypt seeking fresh mediation to  save them.

Sources also told The Arab Weekly that Jordan, in turn, might receive Haniyeh in Amman as the United States supports a joint Egyptian-Jordanian role to nudge Hamas to the negotiating table and bring it, within certain conditions, into the fold of the internationally-recognised Palestinian political system.

Haniyeh had said Wednesday that during his next visit to Cairo, he would discuss several issues related to “firming up de-escalation, rebuilding Gaza, anchoring national unity and strengthening the steadfastness of the Palestinian people.”

The sources stressed that Egypt, which has regained all its cards as a regional player, will demand Haniyeh dispel any ambiguity about the multiple faces of Hamas which makes his organisation seem a collection of disparate movements.

These sources pointed out that Cairo was particularly disturbed by statements made by the Hamas leadership that risk impeding the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

It is said that Egyptian annoyance peaked after statements by Yahya Sinwar, head of the Hamas movement in Gaza, in which he announced that there are 10,000 Palestinian suicide fighters inside Israel waiting for a signal.

Such statements, Egyptian observers say, may trigger a new escalation with Israel that could spin out of control and hinder Egyptian and international efforts to stabilise the ceasefire and pursue reconstruction, development of the Strip and resolution of humanitarian problems.

Observers say that after the recent war and Cairo’s endorsement of the ceasefire, Hamas must involve Egypt in the decisions of war and peace and stop manoeuvring, especially since Egypt will be its gateway to obtaining Western recognition, including from the United States.

Informed sources in Cairo and Amman say that the US approach is to include Hamas in the political talks but enunciate conditions for agreeing to that incorporation into the political system, including into the Palestinian transitional government.

The sources told The Arab Weekly that the administration of US President Joe Biden asked Egypt and Jordan to oversee the political momentum and launch the negotiation process with Hamas, but it stipulated that the movement must be informed of Washington’s conditions for integrating Hamas into the internationally-recognised Palestinian political system.

The first of these conditions is that there is no solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict outside the negotiating table. Accordingly, Hamas would have to clearly adopt the international legal bases which the Palestinians have adopted within the peace process, at the top of which is the two-state solution.

The Americans also want Hamas to recognise Israel’s right to exist. Such a condition is likely to trigger shocks within Hamas’ military and political wings, and lead to turbulence in its foreign relations, especially when it comes to Iran and Hezbollah.

The same sources added that the United States requires from Hamas, in order to obtain international recognition and its acceptance as a legitimate player in Palestine, that “no weapon be wielded by any militia outside the framework of legitimacy and the Palestinian political system”.

This means that Washington will not accept a new state within the state on the borders of Israel similar to the situation of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

An informed Jordanian source told The Arab Weekly that General Ahmed Hosni, director of Jordanian intelligence, has sent an invitation to Haniyeh to visit Amman after many years of estrangement. The Hamas leader accepted the invitation and will be accompanied during his visit to Amman by Khaled Meshaal, the movement’s foreign relations officer and leading figure Izzat al-Rishq.

The source, who preferred not to be named, stated that Haniyeh had been told not to request a meeting with Jordanian government officials or with Jordanian King Abdullah II.

He added that Amman and Cairo have also encouraged Hamas not to insist that it coordinates the rebuilding of Gaza, because such a stance would inhibit regional and international enthusiasm for helping the Strip.

The source revealed that there is a possibility the Qataris could be used as one of the channels of the reconstruction effort and that the rebuilding drive takes place via the United Nations, provided that all these efforts are assisted by the independent and civil committee of competencies formed a few days ago in Gaza.

Israel’s Kan TV channel reported on Wednesday evening that Egypt has invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to take part in talks in Cairo on consolidation of the current ceasefire and improving conditions in the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian delegation led by Major General Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, who is in charge of the Palestinian file in the General Intelligence Service, arrived in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the third visit of its kind since the end of the recent escalation in the Strip, with the aim of following up on efforts to stabilise the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

The first visit took place on May 21and the second on May 23.

On both visits, the Egyptian delegation held meetings with Hamas, which runs the Strip and discussed together several issues, most notably the stabilisation of the ceasefire and the reconstruction of Gaza.