2. Palestinian reaction to Soleimani killing exposes Gaza-West Bank divide
Although Hamas political bureau leader Ismael Haniyeh was the only non-Iranian to speak at the funeral of Qasem Soleimani in Tehran Jan. 6, the overall Palestinian reaction to Soleimani has been mixed to “meh,” showcasing the divide between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Fatah-ruled West Bank.
Background: Both Hamas and the smaller and more radical Islamic Jihad, based in Gaza, depend on Iran for financial and military support. Former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal broke ties with Syria, and by extension Iran, in 2011, when he came out in support of Syrians calling for the downfall of Bashar al-Assad. Haniyeh, who replaced Meshaal in 2017, has set about rebuilding ties with Iran. Despite being a resistance movement, Hamas has the burden of governance in Gaza and needs to keep up ties with Egypt and Israel (the latter often through Egyptian mediation). Islamic Jihad, by contrast, can play the spoiler at Iran’s bidding. Israel is holding Hamas accountable for recent and future attacks from Gaza, even if Islamic Jihad is the culprit.
Gaza-West Bank divide: Hamas and Islamic Jihad held a memorial for Soleimani, dubbed the “Martyr of Jerusalem,” in Gaza in January, which was reportedly attended by hundreds — not the massive crowds seen in Iran and parts of Iraq.
On social media, Hamas support for Iran and Soleimani faced rebuke for the role of Iran, and Soleimani in particular, in crushing the uprising in Syria.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) offered no public statement or condolences on the death of Soleimani, and most commentary from the PA or Fatah-associated figures and factions were critical of Haniyeh.
Check out the report on Palestinian reactions by Ahmad Melhem here.
Saudi cold shoulder: It’s no surprise that Saudi Arabia has little patience with Hamas dalliances with Iran. Ties with Riyadh have been poor for a while, in part because of Qatar’s backing of Hamas. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have implemented an embargo on Qatar since 2017. Haniyeh’s trip to Iran only made matters worse.
“Hamas is well aware of the sharp Iran-Saudi polarization, and the Saudis could drag out efforts to restore ties,” writes Adnan Abu Amer. “Though Hamas has made it clear that it makes its own decisions regardless of foreign influence, if the tension with Riyadh persists, Iran could wind up being the exclusive influence on Hamas — something Riyadh doesn’t want.”