Iran’s calculations bring Haniyeh and Nasrallah together

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Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah





The top leaders of the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas held talks in Beirut on Tuesday about last month’s 11-day war with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Political sources in Lebanon told The Arab Weekly that talks between Ismail Haniyeh and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah were part of an effort to underline the links between Hamas and the Iranian regional agenda. Haniyeh, the sources added, is hoping to downplay Egypt’s role in mediating a ceasefire between the Palestinian Islamist movement and Israel. The aim, according to the same sources, is to keep in check Cairo’s expanding influence in the region, in a way that appeases Tehran’s concerns.

Haniyeh arrived in Lebanon on Sunday and met several top officials, including President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

On Tuesday, Haniyeh and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah discussed how they can build on the experience of the latest round of violence.

A statement by Hezbollah’s media office, reported by Al-Manar TV on Tuesday, said that during the meeting, the two sides reviewed in detail “the battle of Saif al-Quds, its causes, course and impact on the Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and international levels.”

The statement added that this “enables the resistance in Palestine and the axis of resistance in the region to build on this great victory,” stressing “the depth of the existing relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas.”

The bruising war had caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip, brought life in much of Israel to a standstill and killed at least 254 people.

There were no comments after the meeting that brought Nasrallah and Haniyeh together. It was the first between the two since September.

During the war, Hamas and other militant groups fired over 4,000 rockets into Israel with dozens of projectiles flying as far north as Tel Aviv, the country’s bustling commercial and cultural capital. Israeli airstrikes and shelling caused wide destruction in Gaza.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended in a draw.

After the end of the war in Gaza, Haniyeh visited Egypt for Palestinian reconciliation talks. He later visited Morocco and Mauritania before arriving in Lebanon.

Well-informed Lebanese sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Iran has been doubling efforts to downplay Egypt’s role and show that it maintains exclusive influence over Hamas. Iran, which backs Hamas with weapons and funds, apparently hopes to monopolise the mediation process and use the Palestinian conflict as a political bargaining chip in any future talks with major countries, particularly the United States.

Commenting on the visit of the head of the Hamas political bureau to Beirut, some Lebanese political sources asked: “What are Haniyeh’s intentions in Lebanon, a country that is practically ruled and controlled by Hezbollah? Did he come to confirm that Lebanon is aligned with Iran and that it is an active member of the ‘resistance axis’ led by the Islamic Republic from Tehran? Aren’t the misfortunes of Lebanon enough? Can the Lebanese, already humiliated in the light of the current crisis, be ready to bear the burden of Hamas, which does not know what it wants?”

Lebanese writer Khairallah Khairallah said, “It is not known which camp within Hamas is represented by Haniyeh, but it is certain, through his movements and statements, that he represents the Iran-backed camp that invests in mere slogans to cover up its failure and inability to come up with any political project that could prove beneficial to the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

“Haniyeh, who met senior Lebanese officials, has been proclaiming himself as a representative of Palestine, meaning that Hamas has become an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the National Authority in Ramallah. To this end, Haniyeh has been trumpeting a so-called victory that was achieved after the last Jerusalem-Gaza war. The outcome of this war, which lasted eleven days, is still ambiguous. Besides, there is no sign of any progress at the political level, one month and a half after the war,” Kharaillah added.

So far, Hamas has not come up with any specific political programme that would allow it to deal with the post-war phase.

The movement, which claimed victory after the latest round of violence, has tried to take advantage of the developments. In a recent speech, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar spoke about the two-state solution and the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, in statements that emulate those of Yasser Arafat, the historical leader of the Palestinian people.

Despite the rhetoric, Hamas has only shown a concern with power and political control. With little regard for the results of the most recent war, the Islamist movement has seized the opportunity to weaken the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Fatah movement in particular. In its push to consolidate political power, Hamas of course did not hesitate to hijack the revolution of the people of Jerusalem and the residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

In a statement to The Arab Weekly, Khairallah said, “There is no need to prove how eager Hamas was to seize power in light of the catastrophic failure in Cairo. The failure took place despite Egypt’s efforts to achieve any kind of Palestinian-Palestinian reconciliation.”

He added, “There is no such thing as resistance for the sake of resistance and there is no right of return. The fact that Haniyeh speaks about such right in Beirut will not convince the Lebanese people that Palestinian refugees will not remain in their camps forever.”

Khairallah called on the head of Hamas’ political bureau to ask himself very simple questions: What balance of power is there to guarantee the “right of return”? Or is Haniyeh relying on the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, to achieve this goal?

During his meeting with the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri on Monday, Haniyeh called for “the respect of civil and human rights of Palestinians with the aim of ensuring them a decent life until their return.”

There are 174,422 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, in 12 camps and 156 communitie, according to the latest census of the Lebanese Central Bureau of Statistics for the year 2017.

In previous statements, Haniyeh had hailed the strong relations with Hezbollah and Iran. On his visit to Lebanon last September, he stressed, during a meeting with Nasrallah, “the stability and strength of the axis of resistance,” as well as the strength of relations between Hezbollah and Hamas, which are relations based “on foundations of faith, brotherhood, Jihad and a common destiny.”

He added at that time that Hamas was harbouring rockets capable of “hitting Tel Aviv and even beyond”.

Source » thearabweekly

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