The election for the leadership of the Hamas Political Bureau will take place next week, after being postponed in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense. Haaretz has learned that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has removed his candidacy in the race for the leadership of the organization, and for now there is only one definite candidate, Moussa Abu Marzouk, the present deputy bureau chief. But even at this stage it is still unclear whether the incumbent bureau chief, Khaled Meshal - who enjoys the full support of Qatar and Turkey, which are pressing for his appointment for another term – will be running against him.

Meshal has been serving in this position since 1997. Shortly after his ascent to Hamas leadership, Meshal was the target of a botched assassination attempt by agents from Israel’s Mossad espionage agency operating covertly in Jordan.
His life was saved when Israel agreed to hand over the antidote to the toxin used on him, in return for the release of the two Mossad agents caught and held in Jordan during the assassination attempt.

Meshal continues to declare that he does not intend to run, but it is possible that due to pressure on him from the Hamas leadership in the West Bank, in the prisons and from Arab countries, he will decide at the last moment to run, and then his victory is probably guaranteed.

Meshal has supposedly also gained Cairo's support, which is overtly promoting his candidacy in the election for the political office, but is covertly actually helping Abu Marzouk, probably because of it enjoys great influence over him. These elections are also delaying the reconciliation attempts between Hamas and Fatah, with a summit of the leaderships of the two organizations supposed to be held in Cairo only at the end of January, in order to try to reach another agreement on intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

Meanwhile the controversy surrounding the site of the anniversary rally celebrating the establishment of Fatah in Gaza continues. The rally was supposed to take place in Katiba Square, in the same place where the rally celebrating Hamas' establishment took place this month. But recently the reigning organization in Gaza has refused to allow Fatah to celebrate its anniversary in the square.