As Hamas confronts Israel, its Arab support swells
The last time Israel went to war with Gaza, it didn't have to worry about regional diplomatic fallout. The Arab uprisings have changed that calculus.
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Reclaiming its role at the top
The crisis has also given Egypt, which is leading negotiations for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a chance to reclaim its former leadership role in the region. An Israeli envoy arrived in Cairo yesterday for the discussions, and a senior Egyptian official said today there were "encouraging signs" that an agreement could be reached soon. Egypt also hosted the Turkish prime minister, the Qatari emir, and head of Hamas Khaled Meshaal Saturday for discussions on the crisis in Gaza.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Life under Hamas
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These countries have become new, or stronger, allies of Hamas over the past year as the militant group split with its former backers in Syria and Iran. Hamas left its former headquarters in Damascus after the group refused to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his brutal suppression of an uprising.
Their place has been filled by emerging Sunni Islamist governments, as well as Qatar, whose emir last month became the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.
Hamas official Ghazi Hamad says he is pleased with Egypt’s response to the Gaza conflict so far.
“I'm happy with the position of the new leadership in Egypt. I think they are completely different from the past,” he said by phone from Gaza. “In the past Mubarak was watching what's happening in Gaza and doing nothing. The statement issued by the Egyptian leadership, and sending a high delegation to Gaza, this proves that now there is a new voice, a new language.”
Yet he says he expects more from Egypt in the future, when its "internal situation is not so difficult," and is optimistic it will deliver.
"Now Egypt can be the pioneer of a new era, a new political age, in order to create an Arab front to put more pressure on Israel, and stop its aggression against our people,” he says. "I think they can play a very important political role now with the other Arab countries – Tunisia, Libya, Qatar – and Turkey."
Morsi harshly criticized Israel in an address at a mosque after Friday prayers on Nov. 16. "I say to the aggressor to take a lesson from history and stop this farce and bloodshed or else you will face the wrath of the people and their leadership," he said. "Egypt today is different than Egypt yesterday and that the Arabs today are different than the Arabs of yesterday."
The blood Israel spills in Gaza, he said, “would be a curse” on it.
'No longer the Egypt you used to know'
But despite the confident rhetoric, Morsi is in a difficult position. The same senior Egyptian official acknowledged that today, saying the president is caught between following in Mubarak's steps and losing the public or taking a more decisive stance against Israel and risking losing international support, jeopardizing his plans for rebuilding Egypt.