Ha’aretz reports that the last Hamas leaders have left Damascus:
“A senior member of the Hamas movement politburo, Imad el-Alami, previously based in Syria, returned to the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
“Hamas sources said he was the last remaining member of the movement’s Damascus-based politburo to leave Syria.
“Hamas decided to leave Syria in order not to be seen as endorsing the regime of President Bashar Assad in his bloody crackdown against his own people.”
By leaving Damascus, Hamas has placed itself squarely on the same side as Arab public opinion, and Sunni Arabs especially. Along with Khaled Mesha’al’s decision to stand down from power within the organization, it suggests to Palestinians that the organization embodies the values of the Arab Spring. This also comes on the heels of its use of Gilad Shalit to liberate hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas may be taking advantage of these popularity boosts to attempt a comeback in the West Bank:
“According to the officials, over the past few weeks, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service have intercepted relatively large amounts of funds that Hamas activists abroad have tried to smuggle into the West Bank as part of these efforts…
“However, following last October’s prisoner-exchange deal that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed from Hamas captivity in return for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, Hamas’ standing in the West Bank has been boosted.
“One indications of this has been the seized money, which, security officials believe, was intended to help reignite Hamas activities following a long period during which the organization had difficulty in operating in the West Bank.
“It appears that in the initial stage, Hamas is trying to spark activists back into action in various parts of the West Bank. By and large, Hamas has refrained from staging terror attacks from the West Bank in recent years, due both to operational difficulties and political considerations.”
Fatah cannot compete with this, as its signature policies of negotations and the UN statehood campaign were both stymied by the Netanyahu government with the Obama administration actively campaigning against the UN bid and acquiescing in practice to whatever Netanyahu does at the negotiating table.
(Crossposted to my blog)