At a time when Hamas is mending its relationship with Iran, Egypt and Qatar are also in the process of rapprochement after more than a year of tension. Resumed ties between them will likely have an impact on Hamas, but questions remain as to whether the Palestinian Islamist movement stands to gain or lose from this important regional development.
Hamas waited several days to announce its final position on the return of positive relations between Doha and Cairo on Dec. 20, when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met the envoy of Qatar’s emir in Cairo, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, the minister’s assistant for International Cooperation Affairs.
On Dec. 28, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar welcomed the Egyptian-Qatari convergence and denied Qatar was pressuring the Hamas leadership to leave Doha. He also denied reports that Qatar was planning to suspend its support for Hamas over the warming of ties with Egypt, reiterating that Hamas supports the unity of Arab countries to serve the Palestinian cause.
Yousef Rizqa, the former minister of information and political adviser to former Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said in an interview with Al-Monitor, “The Egyptian-Qatari rapprochement serves the interest of the Palestinian national project, and Hamas has no concerns about its relations with Doha being harmed after the Doha-Cairo rapprochement because the movement is not a party to the internal Arab conflict, and it is accepted by the Arab capitals.”
However, an anonymous Egyptian official said in Dec. 26 press statement that Doha informed Hamas leaders that it would temporarily suspend its support for the movement in a bid to pressure Hamas to change its policies against Cairo.
Husam Badran, spokesman for Hamas and a resident of Doha, told Al-Monitor, “There is no suspension of the Qatari financial support for the movement, since their relationship is ongoing.” But Palestinian Minister of Labor Maamoun Abu Shahla revealed Dec. 28 that Qatar had postponed the financial grant supposed to be sent to Gaza’s state workers.