Post-Arab Spring regional realignment broke Hamas’ ties with Iran, now normalisation of relations between Egypt and Qatar could bring them back
There are recent indications that Egypt and Qatar are on the path to reconciliation. Qatar’s relations with a number of states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been strained due to the small Gulf state’s support for Islamist movements, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. While meetings between Egyptian and Qatari diplomats may not lead to a full thawing of relations, normalisation does have major implications for the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (known better by its Arabic acronym: Hamas).
The Syrian conflict precipitated a shifting of alliances in the MENA region. The Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, as well as Iranian support for military operations against a nascent rebellion in early-2012, led Hamas leadership to withdraw from its headquarters in Damascus and relocate to the Qatari capital of Doha.
Hamas envisioned an opportunity with the so-called “Arab Spring.” Long-marginalised Islamist political organisations mobilised with strong showings in post-revolutionary elections, heralding a shift toward Sunni Islamist rule in the region. Hamas viewed this new status quo as more favourable to its struggle for Palestinian liberation, especially compared to the Arab dictators who had made peace with Israel. In Tunisia, the Ennahda party won October 2011 parliamentary elections and in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood — Hamas’ parent organisation — and the Salafist Hezb an-Nour won a plurality of votes in late-2011/early-2012 parliamentary elections. Additionally, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi claimed victory as Egypt’s first democratically-elected president in June 2012.