Book of the Month

Islamist Victors in Egypt Seeking Shift by Hamas

By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, March 24, 2012

CAIRO — As it prepares to take power in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is overhauling its relations with the two main Palestinian factions in an effort to put new pressure on Israel for an independent Palestinian state.

Officials of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s dominant Islamist movement, are pressing its militant Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, which controls Gaza, to make new compromises with Fatah, the Western-backed Palestinian leadership that has committed to peace with Israel and runs the West Bank

Brotherhood officials say that they are pulling back from their previous embrace of Hamas and its commitment to armed struggle against Israel in order to open new channels of communications with Fatah, which the Brotherhood had previously denounced for collaborating with Israel and accused of selling out the Palestinian cause. Brotherhood leaders argue that if they persuade the Palestinians to work together with a newly assertive Egypt, they will have far more success forcing Israel to bargain in earnest over the terms of statehood.

“Now we have to deal with the Palestinian parties as an umbrella for both of them, and we have to stand at an equal distance from each,” said Reda Fahmy, a Brotherhood leader who oversees its Palestinian relations and is now chairman of the Arab affairs committee in Egypt’s upper house of Parliament. “Any movement of the size of the Muslim Brotherhood, when it is in the opposition it is one thing and then when it comes to power it is something completely different.”

Read the full article at

A related "noted with interest"-the editorial note that Issandr El Amrani put on this guest post on his Arabist blog,
"Next in Gaza, Palestinian elections or Israeli preemption?" by Paul Mutter of March 20, as follows:

Ed. note: I would also factor into this the recent agreement between Hamas and Egypt supplied natural gas for Gaza’s powerplant. Hamas had paid up the initial deposit on the transaction but the Egyptians — specifically General Intelligence — have relented on delivering the gas, causing long blackouts. In the short term, Gaza’s energy dependency on Egypt gives the Egyptians leverage (at least until the Muslim Brothers decide to make it a political issue domestically). In the longer term it fits within an Israeli desire to shed responsibility for Gaza, which is why the Egyptians are now asking for the gas to be transfered via Israel rather than directly to Gaza. What this shows is that post-uprising dynamics are fluid and the beneficiaries are not necessarily obvious — as Hamas is now finding itself reorienting away from Iran and Syria and towards possibily tougher new patrons in Qatar and Egypt. — Issandr.

It might be a species of "confirmation bias" but I think this move by the Brotherhood is tied to the twilight of the Baath underway in Syria (that I blathered about on your post about Assad). Mutter's comments shows a certain kind of hedging in this regard. He doesn't want to call the fight in the early rounds but expresses confidence that Damascus will no longer be the power broker it used to be.

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