Tariq Alhomayed
Asharq Alawsat (Opinion)
January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Did [Hamas chief] Khalid Mishal arrive in Riyadh to announce the selling of Iran, or did he come to sell us another illusion?

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal described his talks with Mishal as being "focused on removing doubts about the role that it [Hamas] is playing in our region." I liked the comment made by Mr. Turki Al Sudairi, the editor of the "al-Riyadh" newspaper when he said on the "Ekhbariya" news channel that "these doubts are equivalent to the population of the Arab world."

Mishal's comments are important, especially his denial that Hamas is replacing the Arab role with an Iranian one, as well as his confirmation that "Palestine's greatest strength is its Arab strength." He added "we know the history of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Arabs in general, in their support of the Palestinian cause." He also denied that Hamas had any role in undermining Arab security or supporting the Huthi rebels. In fact Mishal said that Hamas "continues to look for Saudi Arabia to play a distinctive role, alongside Egypt and other Arab countries, for success in sponsoring Palestinian reconciliation and unifying the Palestinian position, and to prompt Arab countries to confront the intransigent Israeli leadership." Mishal also said that "Netanyahu today does not pay any consideration to the Palestinians or the Arabs." We are all aware that the inter-Palestinian division that was initiated by Hamas is the reason for this, and we have also not forgotten the abortion of the Mecca Agreement. Prince al-Faisal was clear about this, and he said "we continue to interact with what happened in Mecca and the results of this agreement. You know that we were very hurt that this agreement did not come to light, but that's in the past. We hop for the future; we hope there will be a quick response to the Egyptian initiative that will restore Palestinian effectiveness." This is clear talk to block any attempts to circumvent the Egyptian efforts [for Palestinian reconciliation].

However the question remains; is Mishal's visit to Riyadh and his statements sufficient for us to believe him?

For when Mishal says that Netanyahu does not pay any consideration to the Palestinians and Arabs, for example, he may be right, but the reason for this is the Palestinian division, and particularly Hamas's position, that prefers a truce with Israel without talking about Jerusalem or any other issue, as well as its rejection of the Arab Initiative, and this is something that serves Israel, not the Arabs or the Palestinian cause.

As for Saudi Arabia, what I understood is that Prince Saudi al-Faisal's reception of Mishal, who requested this meeting and only met with the Saudi Foreign Minister, is only one small part of a greater series of Saudi communication with major Arab countries. Riyadh wants to continue what King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz began in Kuwait when he launched the Arab reconciliation initiative; to reach a phase where the Arab world is not a stage for others, but for Arabs to have an effective role in determining the course and future of the region.

We do not know whether the internal situation in Iran or its foreign entitlements have caused Mishal to take action, or whether this is because Hamas wishes to circumvent the Egyptians. We do not know if this is part of [political] maneuvering, particularly with regards to the internal pressure in Gaza, and the distortion of the [Hamas] movement's image in the Arab world, not to mention that Hamas's statements following Mishal's visit to Riyadh say that this came as part of a tour that included [visits to] "Syria, Yemen, and Iran." As a result of this, we say that our belief of Mishal should be subject to actions, not words, as we have heard these words before to no avail.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017