The isolated Gaza strip might finally see the day of light as it looks to get the benefit of alliances which continue to shift in the Middle East. Gaza, ruled by Hamas, is being wooed by both sides in the Qatar crisis.
Hamas held a series of meetings earlier this month with dismissed leader Mohammed Dahlan and Egypt-backed UAE. The meetings gave the Gaza strip a hope for a breakthrough in its decade long blockade by Israel and Egypt.
The breakthrough might open up several avenues, a $100 million power plantthat would take 18 months to build, the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt at the end of August, and the activation of the community reconciliation committee.
The committee, backed by Hamas and its one-time foe Dahlan, will settle the cases of those killed in the 2007 inter-Palestinian conflict by financially compensating their families.
Such understandings will benefit all the concerned parties and allows Hamas to strengthen its rule in Gaza, the electricity crisis will be solved, and the Rafah crossing will be opened, thus facilitating the travel of individuals and the movement of goods to and from the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Egyptian security will benefit, as Hamas’ Ministry of Interior announced that it started setting up a buffer zone on its border.
The UAE will get a chance to expel Qatar from Gaza along with strengthening the status of its allies (Egypt and Dahlan), despite Qatar’s long-time financial generosity toward Hamas and the strip.
“Hamas does not want to lose any side,” political author and analyst Talal Awkal told Al-Monitor. “It wants to retain the Qatari support and gain the Egyptian and Emirati support, but this is no longer possible in light of the regional crises, which will prompt it to pick a side.”
Qatar has backed Hamas, since Egypt and Israel imposed a siege on Gaza. Qatar has financed the social, health and economic projects, which included the payment of $12 million to address electricity problems, the construction of large residential projects such as the Hamad residential city and other humanitarian donations.
However, “Hamas considers Egypt, including its allies, to be its best option [at the moment]. It would be in [Hamas’] interest to implement understandings with Egypt at a time when Qatar cannot open the Rafah crossing or solve the electricity crisis let alone maintain Hamas’ control over Gaza,” Awkal added.
If Egypt and its allies want to expel Qatar from Gaza, they will have to rely on the UAE’s financial role. “Cairo made the decision of easing the siege on Gaza for political and security calculations. Consequently, Hamas’ execution of the understandings will prompt the UAE to provide support for Gaza,” Awkal said.
Qatar, which looks like it has realized Egyptian-Emirati plan to expel it from Gaza, saw Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi hold a meeting with Hamas leaders and announced that Qatar would continue its support to the Palestinian people.
As Hamas, Egypt and Dahlan started to fall on the same page, Qatari and Turkish media started to issue related reports, A Qatari newspaper published an article by Jordanian journalist Issa al-Shuaibi which accused Hamas of being the “de facto authority” and pointed that Hamas “is willing to change its political alliances, most importantly with Qatar, in return for the food it is being offered by the UAE and Egypt. Dahlan’s offers to Gaza are mere attempts by Egypt and the UAE to pull the Gaza Strip out of the ‘Qatari influence.’”
Ahmed Yousef, who was a political adviser to former Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, denied in an interview with Al-Monitor that Egypt had asked Hamas to cut off its relations with Qatar to proceed with the rapprochement.
As for Hamas’ decision to choose between its relations with Qatar and its understandings with Egypt and its allies, Yousef said, “We have no intention of siding with one Arab country against another because our goal is to garner all the Arab support possible for the Palestinian cause. So any alliance with Egypt and the UAE at the expense of Qatar or Turkey will lead the Palestinian cause to lose great momentum, and our relations with Egypt do not infer a rift with Qatar and Turkey.”
He added, “Hamas will not side with an Arab party against another, and this is an issue we ought to clarify to all countries.”
He pointed out that “Qatar confirmed that its projects are ongoing in Gaza and that all its commitments will be completed according to plan.”
Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas leader, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas does not accept that someone asks it to reject Qatari aid and does not allow anyone to interfere in its policies. The movement is keen on keeping good relations with Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, without being part of the regional axes or the Arab differences.”
A leader in the Dahlan following, Naima Sheikh, told Al-Monitor, “The understandings reached by Hamas and Dahlan did not tackle the relationship between Hamas and Qatar and did not include any demands to cut off relations with Qatar, because this involves Hamas alone.”
If the Hamas’ understandings with Egypt and Dahlan turns strong, then the strip will be converted into a competition with Qatar, This scenario will eventually unfold unless Hamas is forced to choose between the Egypt-UAE side and the Qatari side.