'Hamas Seeking Best of Both Worlds': Closer Ties With Iran and Saudi Arabia

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Deputy chairman of Hamas' political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk talks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, August 9, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Hamas deputy political chief Moussa Abu Marzouk is in Beirut for a meeting with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah about strengthening the ties between the two organizations, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper Rai al-Youm.

Abu Marzouk is expected to give Nasrallah a letter from the Hamas political bureau, headed by Khaled Meshal, providing details about Hamas’ policy regarding a cease-fire with Israel, according to the report.

Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah has confirmed Abu Marzouk’s visit or plans for a meeting, but the rapprochement between Hamas and Hezbollah is nothing new. Nasrallah praised Hamas during and after last summer’s war in Gaza last year and there has been regular talk of Hezbollah mediation between Hamas and Tehran.

The rapprochment received public expression in a declaration of gratitude to Tehran by the Al-Qassam brigades during the recent celebrations in Gaza marking the founding of Hamas. The celebrations were broadcast live on Lebanon’s Al Manar TV channel and Iranian TV.

Shiite Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria, while Hamas is a Sunni outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that supports Sunni rebels in Syria.

The Hamas political leadership is said to be in no rush to embrace the Iranians, preferring a rapprochment with Saudi Arabia following the death of the kingdom’s King Abdullah. Ties between Abdullah and the Palestinian faction were rocky, but Hamas is apparently expecting an improvement under new King Salman.

Saudi Arabia is facilitating contacts between Hamas and its Palestinian rival Fatah, according to an article on Friday by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is close to the Saudi royal family and the king’s inner circle. The purpose of the contacts is to advance reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions and improve Hamas’ relations with both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. According to Khashoggi, Meshal is planning visit to Riyadh in the near future.

Khashoggi wrote that Hamas was trying to enjoy both worlds – rapprochement with Tehran as well as an improvement in relations with Saudi Arabia – but that the Saudis will not consent to that.

“In this game you can’t be in the middle, and therefore Hamas must decide, and I think that they’re closer to Riyadh than to Tehran,” he said.

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