In Wake of Flight From Syria, Hamas Inches Closer to a New Jordan Home

Forming deal between Islamist group, Amman, indicates that Hamas promises not to intervene in inner Jordanian issues, and has no intention of harming Jordan's relations with other states.

Jordan and Hamas are establishing a joint committee to rehabilitate their relations. According to Al-Hayat, published in London, Prince Ali, King Abdullah's brother, requested representatives of Hamas and Jordanian intelligence to formulate rules governing Hamas activity in the kingdom.

Ali's drive is the result of a Jordanian strategic decision to rehabilitate its relations with Hamas without harming its ties with Israel or the U.S. Two weeks ago, Hamas leadership handed Jordanian intelligence a document presenting the movement's idea of future relations. Among other things, the document stated that Hamas is aware that it would be difficult to set the wheels back to the relations that existed before Hamas was banished from the kingdom in 1999, and that at least at the first stage, it does not expect the relations to resemble normal ties between a state and a recognized movement.

Hamas does not request to open offices in Jordan or to be politically active in the kingdom. Furthermore, Hamas promises not to intervene in inner Jordanian issues, and has no intention of embarrassing Jordan or harming its relations with other states.

Top Hamas official Khaled Mashal has visited Jordan last June for talks with King Abdullah, and on Saturday he visited Jordan again to attend the funeral of Shiekh Omar Al-Ashkar, one of Hamas' founders. This time, Mashal was treated to a vehicle and official escort on behalf of the government.

The renewal of ties was initiated several months ago by the Emir of Qatar who believed that Hamas' disengagement from Syria was an opportunity to exert his influence over the movement, and offered Hamas to relocate its offices in Doha. King Abdullah, who for years had refused to hear of any reconciliation with Hamas, changed his view following the possibility of a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and the realization that if a Palestinian unity government would emerge, he would have to establish working relations it. The king's decision was also affected by the support of the Islamic bloc in Jordan, consisting mostly of Moslem Brotherhood activists who are legally free to act in the kingdom. Jordan has, indeed, a long account to settle with Hamas, and is under Israeli and U.S. pressure not to renew its ties with the movement, but the kingdom is also suspicious of the Palestinian Authority. For years, the PA marginalized the kingdom and preferred Egyptian to Jordanian mediation. The Jordanians were usually briefed after the fact.

Meanwhile, Egypt continues its "critical diaglogue" with Hamas leadership, hoping to receive information concerning three activists suspected of being involved in last week's terror attack in Rafah. According to reports from Egypt, the authorities are not demanding the extradition of the three, but rather information regarding their activity. At this stage it is yet unclear which organization carried out the attack. At first it was reported that "El Tachir Wal Hejira," one of the most extremist organizations active in Sinai was responsible for the attack, later "El Tawahid" was blamed, and now Egyptian intelligence is focusing on "Jaish al-Islam" and its leader Mumtaz Dormush, as possible suspects of carrying out the attack.

According to Egyptian sources, "Hamas is going out of its way to demonstrate its cooperation with the Egyptian authorities but both sides are aware that Hamas would find it hard to confront Dormush's organization." Dormush, formerly part of the Gaza Preventive Security Force headed by Mohammed Dahlan, probably has strongholds in the Sinai Peninsula, and is know to have received arms from Sudan, following an order by Yemen Al Qaida branch. The Egyptians believe that if Hamas was to seize the organizations headquarters in the Gaza, it would be possible to liquidate its secondary headquarters in Sinai. For Hamas this is an unusual challenge, since it is required to cooperate with the Egyptian authorities' struggle against the terror in Sinai, while being partly responsible for it.