|The Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas) Now Faces Difficult Decisions|
One of the most interesting things about the current Hamas move to consolidate its power in the Palestinian territories is the question of how that move will play with Salafi/wahhabist groups in their love-hate relationship with Hamas.
It is necessary to remember two things: Hamas remains directly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, both organically and officially, as described in the Hamas charter. The second is that Hamas and the Salafist groups have been in a deep and bitter dispute because of Hamas’ decision to participate in the elections last year. There have been other spats before, but this was a different level of denunciation and recrimination.
Ayman Zawahiri was particularly vocal in publicly denouncing Hamas at the time in the strongest possible terms. On the various jihadi and Hamas web forums that routinely cross-linked to each other the feud grew so bitter that such cross-pollination has dropped off considerably. Hamas has thrown jihadi commentators off Hamas sites, and the jihadis have reciprocated. (Evan Kohlmann is the authority on this).
So an important question, to me, is, what now? The elections are now a moot point and the unity government now a thing of the past. The Muslim Brotherhood’s sole, overt armed branch has participated in and won elections, but has proved unable to co-exist in a coalition with secular partners.
Hamas has asserted itself militarily and shown a willingness to fight not only against Israel, but against other Palestinian groups that do not share its vision of the future. In the direct clash between (deeply corrupt) secularists and those driven by religious zeal who believe the existence of Israel is an affront to Allah, the secularists had almost no chance. Some in Hamas are openly discussing making the Gaza Strip Islamic state.
I would think this would give pause to those who repeatedly say that the Ikhwan could and would accept the results of elections and have and will work with non-Islamist coalition partners to advance a broad agenda.
Hamas showed that the discourse of dialogue and coalition building and the strategy participating in a process its ideologues cannot completely control, will be thrown out if the chance for armed victory emerges.
As destructive as the fighting with Fatah has been in general, it will open the door for a thawing of relations between Hamas and the Salafist groups. The future of that relationship should tell us a great deal about what the real intentions are of Hamas, and by extension, the Muslim Brotherhood.
The tension between Hamas and the al Qaeda affiliated groups has centered not on the long-term goals (the destruction of Israel, the re-establishment of the Caliphate etc.), but on the tactics to achieve those goals. It appears those tactics are more closely aligned now than before.
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