Photo Credit: Atia Mohammed/Flash90
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar at a rally in Gaza City. The children around him prevent an Israeli strike against him. Dec. 14, 2022

Hamas gambled on Saudi Arabia years ago and for the first time in years, a delegation of the terror group’s highest leaders are visiting Saudi Arabia to mend fences.

The Hamas delegation is being led by supreme leader Ismail Haniyeh, political chief Musa Abu Marzouk, and Khaled Mashaal, who leads Hamas abroad. Also joining are Zahar Jabrin, the deputy leader of Hamas in Judea and Samaria, and Khalil al Haya, Hamas’s deputy leader in Gaza.


Only Gaza strongman Yahye Sinwar is staying behind. Somebody had to address Gaza’s “Qud’s Day” rally against Israel on Friday.

The Hamas leaders will meet with Saudi intelligence officials on Sunday. The overarching goal of the talks is to restore relations which deteriorated in 2007. That’s when Hamas violated the “Mecca agreement,” a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal brokered by the Saudis after Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip earlier that year.

The bad feelings escalated in 2019, when the Saudis arrested 69 Hamas officials operating inside the kingdom. Dozens of bank accounts and other assets were confiscated while Saudi newspapers described Hamas as a “terror organization.” The prisoners were eventually released to Jordan.

Hamas, which is Sunni Muslim, then pivoted towards Shi’ite Iran. The debate within Hamas on this move was significant, deep and poignant. The Saudis demanded Hamas make its loyalty to the Sunni Islam clear and oppose Iran.

But in the end, Hamas bet on Iran, rolled the dice, and won.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have reconciled between themselves. The Gaza terror group did not damage its relations with the Sunni world or moderate Arab countries. Hamas leaders are among the few people who can now openly visit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Qatar and Russia.

Syria will soon be added to that list as well. Hamas is expected to soon reopen its offices in Damascus, after years of disconnection with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria closed Hamas’s office in Damascus in 2012 when the terror group opposed Assad’s brutal crackdown during the Syrian civil war.

Now Hamas can claim in the Arab arena that it is “not part of any political or military axis”, as it has been claiming for decades, while at the same time remaining in Iranian orbit.

Evidence of Hamas membership in the “Jerusalem Axis” is not lacking. Hezbollah’s missile firing from Lebanon, the Iranian “Jerusalem Day” events on Tuesday, the series of various speeches by Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas, Haniyeh’s visits to Lebanon and the establishment of Hamas military forces in southern Lebanon — all of these indicate a clear affiliation to the Iranian “Jerusalem Axis.”

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is one of the toughest figures in Riyadh in his attitude towards Hamas. In recent years, Hamas pointed to the Crown Prince often referred to by his initials, MBS, as the one who adopted the American-Israeli policy against the Palestinians, claiming that Saudi Arabia was “getting closer to Israel and opening the gates of normalization.”

It will be interesting to see how the Crown Prince’s relations with Hamas will be conducted in the near future, but one way or another, Saudi reconciliation with the Iranians and now Hamas is a clear act of defiance towards the US and President Joe Biden.

Faced with successful move by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority views the visit to Saudi Arabia with concern. In Qatar on Saturday before flying off to Saudi Arabia, Ismail Haniyeh hosted dozens of statesmen and representatives from Arab, Islamic and “foreign” countries for a political meeting. Haniyah sees himself as a statesman in the international arena for all intents and purposes and he plays on the whole field.

It is not for nothing that the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Qatar was absent from this meeting, which raised Mahmoud Abbas’s blood pressure.


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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.