Mubarak’s Egypt backed Fatah against Hamas. Now, the shoe is on the other foot as Egypt goes to the polls to choose a president
writes Khaled Amayreh in Hebron…
The trial and conviction of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib El-Adli, earlier this week have reverberated through the Palestinian political street, drawing conflicting reactions from Palestinian factions, each according to its ideological and political orientation.
Palestinians have been following up rather closely on developments in Egypt ever since the start of the 25 January Revolution that toppled the Mubarak regime, which was widely considered at Israel and America’s beck and call.
A clear polarisation is noticed between the Islamist and secular nationalist camps, particularly Hamas and Fatah.
Other smaller Palestinian factions, such as the leftists and liberals, are displaying marked ambivalence, having to choose between erstwhile historical and ideological foes on the one hand and a resurgent regime in the style of ex- president Mubarak on the other.
Hamas, the Islamic liberation movement, is the ideological daughter of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak’s long- standing foe that now stands at the forefront of post-Mubarak forces and effectively controls the first parliament after the revolution.
Moreover, Hamas doesn’t hide its preference for Mohamed Mursi, the presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood who will contest a run-off election with Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, on 16-17 June.
Hamas and most Palestinians view as a gigantic disaster the possible success of Shafik, “snatching” the presidency in Cairo from revolutionary hands.
“God forbid this would send us backward to the Mubarak era; it would be depressing to even entertain the idea. The election of Shafik would be good news for Israel and the Jews, and bad, I would say very bad news to every patriotic Arab and Muslim, not only in Palestine and the Middle East but all over the world,” said Fathi Imran, a prominent Islamist leader in the Bethlehem region.
Imran, who spent over 10 years in Israeli jails for his political activities against the Israeli occupation, said the rectification of the revolution’s course in Egypt is not only a matter of concern only for Egyptians, but for the entire Arab and Muslim world.
“When Egypt is down, we are all down and we will all suffer, but when Egypt is prosperous and strong, so will we be. The fact that Israel has been visibly disappointed by the dramatic collapse of the Mubarak regime speaks volumes. In a nutshell, Mubarak was an ally and servant of Israel and the United States.”
This is not how Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, views the former Egyptian regime and the man who was at its helm for over 30 years.
Officially, Fatah stands neutral between Shafik and Mursi. However, it is clear that Fatah’s heart lies with anti- Ikhwan (Brotherhood) forces. The reason for this somewhat strange attitude has nothing to do with any special infatuation on Fatah’s part with the symbols of the former Egyptian regime.
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority [PA] leadership are calculating that Mursi might well win the upcoming elections and do not want to alienate in earnest the Muslim Brotherhood, as this would harm Fatah,
argued Talal Okal, a prominent political analyst.
“On the other hand, most Fatah leaders believe that if Mursi became president of Egypt, that would not auger well for Fatah, especially its power struggle with Hamas.
“Hamas is highly likely to benefit, politically and psychologically, from the presence of its ideological colleagues at the helm of power in the most important Arab capital.”
A MAJORITY FOR MURSI: Despite the sharp polarisation between Fatah and Hamas, it seems that a comfortable majority of Palestinians favour Mursi over Shafik.
An Internet poll of some 17,500 web- surfers by the Maan News Agency showed that 53.5 per cent would vote for Mursi while 39.5 per cent would cast their votes for Shafik. About seven per cent said they were undecided.
The informal but probably indicative poll shows that most Palestinians are hopeful that the Palestinian cause would stand to benefit from an Islamist or quasi-Islamist government in Egypt.
It is likely though that a united front against Shafik, including Mursi, the Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi and the moderate Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, would significantly reduce support for Shafik and could put an end to his election chances.
Meanwhile, reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is effectively awaiting the outcome of the run-off round between Shafik and Mursi on 16 June. The two parties are not saying so openly, but scrutiny of the Palestinian political scene reveals that the elections will certainly impact the reconciliation process between the secular Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Islamist Hamas.
The two groups reached a series of agreements and understandings of late, creating a general impression that a final reconciliation was in the offing, if not readily at hand.
However, mutual suspicions, and even accusations and recriminations, continue to prevail over the Palestinian political arena.
What is more is that a solid majority of Palestinians no longer believe optimistic statements about the nearness of reconciliation from Hamas and Fatah leaders.
Some Palestinian analysts believe that the next Egyptian president will not be able to do much in terms of reuniting Fatah and Hamas or delivering the Palestinians and their just cause from the tentacles of the Israeli occupation. Such analysts argue that the president-to-be will be too busy dealing with complex domestic issues in Egypt.
However, there are those who think that no Egyptian leadership — especially in revolutionary Egypt — can afford to treat the Palestinian issue as secondary. One of the factors that tainted Mubarak’s rule and hastened its demise was its obsequious stance vis-à-vis Israel during the Zionist state’s all-out blitzkrieg against the Gaza Strip in 2008-09.
Many Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims link wanton Israeli massacres of Palestinian civilians, using the latest weapons of death, such as white phosphorus to the times of the Mubarak regime, not criminalising Israeli violence.
Source: ahram weekly