Hamas in ascendant as Malaysian PM visits Gaza

Prime Minister Najib Razak

Prime Minister Najib Razak

Two months after the end of Operation Pillar of Defence, Hamas is gradually breaking the diplomatic isolation of the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, while most of the attention in the region was focused on Israel’s elections, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak crossed the border from Egypt for a short visit with Hamas leaders in Gaza.

The visit was probably an attempt by Mr Razak to appeal to voters ahead of the Malaysian elections later this year. His office described the trip as “humanitarian” and he toured a school funded by the Malaysian government.

But Mr Razak’s visit is just one in a series of recent and planned visits by Muslim leaders, beginning with the Emir of Qatar in October and due to see the Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki arrive in early February. They demonstrate that Hamas is gaining international acceptance as legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, talks between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority on implementing reconciliation agreements are continuing in Cairo. Despite some progress, which has been reflected in Hamas allowing Fatah rallies to take place in Gaza and vice versa, the talks have yet to result in an agreed mechanism for Palestinian National Council elections.

Despite the fact that Hamas activists are becoming more involved in violent demonstrations in the West Bank, Palestinian security forces aligned with Fatah are still preventing Hamas from re-establishing its terror infrastructure there.

Israeli security sources have said in recent days that despite the heightened levels of violence in the West Bank, talk of “Third Intifada” are very premature. They pointed out that the PA is still in control and there is little enthusiasm among the local population for a return to the violent days of the intifada.

Last updated: 8:45pm, January 24 2013