The recent reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, has exposed internal tension within Hamas that could hinder the ultimate implementation of the agreement, according to Reuters. This marks the first occasion that disagreements between Hamas' rulers in the Gaza Strip and exiled leadership in Damascus have been highly publicized and has embarrassed a movement that has always defended its united front.
Signs of division surfaced following the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2. After the head of the Hamas-run government in Gaza memorialized bin Laden as a "holy warrior," Khaled Meshaal, head of the exiled politburo, contradicted the remark, calling it a "slip of the tongue."
Meshaal was then chastised by the Gaza-based leadership for announcing that Hamas was willing to give "an additional chance" to the peace process with Israel. This statement came during a ceremony in Cairo to launch the reconciliation agreement an contradicts the group's established policy of not negotiating with the Jewish state and engaging in armed conflict as a strategy for reclaiming all of Palestine.
Experts on Hamas attribute the current internal strain to the unexpected decision by the exiled Hamas leadership to enter into an agreement with Fatah without consulting the government in Gaza. Decisions within Hamas are typically made through consensus, though Meshaal's influence is substantial since he is the primary interlocutor between the movement and its patrons in Syria and Iran.
Analysts see the reconciliation deal with Fatah as an attempt by Hamas to foster better relations with the new government in Egypt. This effort is supposedly in response to the uncertainty mounting in Syria as mass protests threaten the regime of Hamas supporter President Bashar al-Assad.
Though the tension may continue to escalate within Hamas' ranks as the specifics of the unity deal are addressed, analysts do not foresee the movement splitting. "The reconciliation brought differences to the surface and in a deep way. We may witness more cracks but it will not lead to a division," said political analyst Hani Habib.