It was rather unprecedented when the Saudi national press agency published Hamas’s condolences to the Saudi monarchy over the loss of their monarch, the late King Abdullah. Meanwhile, in Doha, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal praised the Saudi monarchy for its continued support for the Palestinian cause; while Hamas representative in Beirut, Ali Baraka, expressed his condolences to Saudi ambassador Ali Asiri.
With the passing of King Abdullah, Hamas saw an opportunity to renew their relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after mounting tension between the two in the recent months. The Palestinian liberation movement wished to seize the opportunity represented by what is known in the region as the “diplomacy of funerals” to attempt to find a way out of the impending siege on the Gaza strip.
In the midst of this sad moment, Hamas saw the chance to redefine its relationship with Saudi Arabia, which it views as a politically and economically influential player in the region with ties to both Washington and Cairo. It is Riyadh’s position within the international community that prompted Ismail Haniyeh to work on improving the relationship between the two entities – and the Palestinian-Saudi Arabian relationship has very strong historical and political ties.
Thus, the atmosphere in the region seems to be rather optimistic with the ascension of King Salman to the throne. Hamas has high hopes that the region’s politics will reflect positively on the movement as it has had a rather positive relationship with Prince Salman since his time as Crown Prince and former head of intelligence.
Hamas knows full well that Saudi Arabia plays an indispensible role in the region, and it is for this reason that the political movement is quite eager to develop and maintain a positive relationship with the Kingdom. There are high hopes that King Salman will develop a robust economic and political policy that will come to the aid of the Palestinian people; Hamas is well aware that Saudi Arabia is always keen on achieving the aspirations of Palestine.
Leaders within Hamas have predicted that the new Saudi king and his government will make changes to the country’s current policies because of several regional factors, including the control of the Houthis in Yemen, changes in the price of oil, and mobility in the eastern region – not to mention the fact that negotiations on the Palestinian issue have failed. It is expected that with the US’s new attitude towards Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be keen to establish and foster new alliances.
Decision-making circles in the Kingdom are said to view Hamas’s concerns as legitimate, especially since King Salman is keen to address the issues and diplomatic relationships that are believed to be the cause of the Kingdom’s recent alienation within the region, including its relationship with Hamas. Either way, King Salman’s agenda for the region is quite full and Hamas may have to face many of its enemies before it can gain new allies. It is still too early to tell how things will proceed.
It was quite evident that many of Hamas’s current allies were present at the funeral, while many of its adversaries were not – which ultimately begged the question: could the Kingdom’s negative shift in terms of its relationship with Egypt have a positive impact on Hamas?
We have seen the relationship with between Egypt and Hamas deteriorate over the course of the last two years despite Hamas’s insistence that it does not interfere in the internal relations of any of the region’s countries. In fact, Hamas has asked numerous times that its name not be tied to any of the chaotic events taking place in Egypt. Thus, there is great hope that the new Saudi government will help alleviate some of the chaos taking place in Egypt as Riyadh has a great deal of political capital in Cairo.
The question that has yet to be answered is what effects Hamas’s rapprochement with Saudi Arabia will have on its intimate ties with Iran, a country with which the Kingdom is experiencing numerous tensions due to the situations in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen. Regardless of the outcomes, Hamas is well aware that fostering closer ties with Saudi Arabia is the better outcome for the Palestinian cause and its people.
Translated from Felesteen newspaper, 8 February, 2015
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.