Who is Hamas? 5 questions about the Palestinian militant group.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has agreed to form a unity government led by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and head of rival Palestinian faction Fatah.  But who is Hamas?  What is their relationship with Fatah, and what might Hamas gain from reconciling with them?  Here are five key questions about Hamas.

5. What could reconciliation mean for Hamas?

One of the primary motives for Fatah and Hamas's reconciliation is to strengthen the Palestinians' bid for statehood.  As the Monitor reported in November, the UN Security Council committee that reviewed the Palestinian application for statehood specifically mentioned the Gaza-West Bank split as a problem. 

But the Israeli-Palestinian peace process could be further hobbled if Hamas and Fatah succeed in their current efforts to reconcile and form a unity government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argues that until Hamas foreswears violence and recognizes Israel, there can be no talks with a government of which they are part.  The US, which lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, is similarly opposed to negotiations with the group.

Hamas also sees reconciliation as an opportunity to take advantage of change being promulgated in the Arab SpringFawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson in the Gaza Strip, told the Monitor that "We believe that this result of the democratic process might mean full support for Palestinian rights and interest, now that [Arab governments’] hearts are with the people."

But some warn that Hamas is misreading the direction the change is going.  "It is an Islamic Spring, but it's not an Islamic Spring Hamas thinks about," says Mohammed Dejani, a political science professor at Al Quds University.  "There has been a religious revival, but in a sense of moderation and not in a sense of religious fundamentalism."

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