Hamas is not the first to move towards Moscow as Fatah, the PA leadership and the PLO did this before, when it rushed to open up to Moscow and Beijing in an attempt to search for respite to counter the US pressure that escalated following the launch of the mysterious deal of the century.
The visit of the Hamas delegation is not the movement’s first, but its second and represents an important breakthrough for the Palestinian resistance, which is looking for international legitimacy. More importantly, it is looking for all means to alleviate Palestinian division as the visit is not only to discuss the deal of the century and the blockade, but also included a discussion on the possibility of Russia playing a role in moving the Palestinian reconciliation file forward by hosting delegations from the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.
Moscow has become a new platform that is slowly forming to deal with the complexities of the Arab-Zionist conflict. It could compete with peers and other Arab and regional platforms as Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov made statements following his meeting with the Hamas delegation headed by Musa Abu Marzouk in which he stated that Russia did not look into the terms of the deal of the century prepared by the US, but that he is interested in moving negotiations forward. He also expressed Moscow’s willingness to play a role in achieving reconciliation in order to reach a unified delegation representing the Palestinians in any future negotiations.
Moscow is a breathing space that offers a good opportunity to deal with American pressure and is a space that can be developed and activated. Herein lies Washington’s concern, as well as the concerns of European forces that are irked by the growth of Russia’s influence in the region. This is because Moscow has become a regional player in west Asia and the role it is playing in Syria has contributed to strengthening its position in the region, as it is a party managing the Iranian-Israeli confrontation in Syria and sets the pace for it. This gives it the advantage of experience allowing it to transfer its experience to occupied Palestine, including the Palestinian, Arab and international problems and concerns.
Moscow has influence in the eastern Mediterranean and an important perspective given its historic relations with Greece and Cyprus. It is capable of activating the idea of developing a sea passage port in Cyprus that would alleviate the intensity of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, with rational guarantees that save the Palestinians from getting involved in the deal of the century and strengthening the infrastructure for the ill-fated project to build a seaport in the Egyptian Sinai funded by Arab countries eager to establish normalised relations with Israel. This matter has gained popularity amongst the Palestinians and weakens the PA’s sceptical media and political discourse in Ramallah, as Moscow is capable of being persuasive, distanced from the Trump administration’s efforts, to institutionalise the deal of the century and prepare for it, making use of the suffering of the Gazan people and Palestinian division. This is not unlikely given Bogdanov’s statements regarding the possibility of easing the effects of the blockade.
Moscow is seeking to activate its role in the region, as it is in geographical contact with the Arab-Zionist conflict given the presence of its forces in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. Its role is expected to increase gradually, as America is vulnerable to more future domestic and foreign concerns, thus creating more gaps. Surprises in its domestic arena as a result of the American elections are likely, in addition to its growing crisis with neighbouring countries, beginning with Canada and Mexico, as well as its suffering from relative isolation from its European and Asian allies.
Despite this, the relationship with Moscow is not without problems and doubts, as it is viewed with suspicion not only by the United States, but also by those who wish to deal with Moscow. This is because the Syrian model is not an ideal model in the management of the confrontation between Iran, the Syrian regime, and Israel, since it carries many hidden and ambiguous elements. In addition to this, Moscow is interested in investing in the gaps left behind by the Americans’ confused performance in Palestine, in order to strengthen its position in the region and improve its status in the Arab region. Improving its image and enhancing its position by opening up to one of the most important actors in the Arab conflict, represented by Hamas, is an achievement in itself.
Finally, Moscow has a close view of the Arab-Zionist conflict, which makes it an important actor in the near future, despite the problems and doubts. This can be strengthened if it manages to make a major breakthrough by engineering Palestinian reconciliation or at least an agreement regarding some of the issues, mainly the blockade and the American deal of the century, at the very least. Meanwhile, Hamas is interested in easing the effects of the siege, far from American projects, ridding itself of its isolation and diversifying its options by opening a window that gives it a wide view of the world. This would allow for influential, international capitals like Beijing and other to open their doors to Hamas.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Assabeel on 26 June 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.