Breakup will be fatal to Hamas and Hezbollah

In the quandary, dark and depressing, they will have to find the light they are in quest of. Hezbollah and Hamas now need each other more than ever in the past in the view  of their compulsions to survive, existential threats and a rapidly changing geopolitics of Middle East. Their decision to play down their rift and patch things up is a move in right direction.  

The allies for the past twenty years had fallen out over Hezbollah's participation in the Syrian conflict and its role in the battle for Qusair. Hamas accused Hezbollah of fanning further the deteriorating sectarian polarisation of Middle East, deviating from its professed objective of fighting for the liberation of Palestine from Israeli subjugation and supporting dictatorial regime. 

Last month its deputy chairman of the political bureau Mousa Abu Marzuq issued a statement asking Hezbollah "to take its forces out of Syria and to keep their weapons directed against the Zionist enemy, especially given that its intervention in Syria has contributed to increasing the sectarian polarization in the region." The statement was tough in tone and surprised political observers of the region because of what it implied rather than what it spoke. Hamas, implicitly accused Hezbollah of hypocrisy and betrayal.

Hamas felt that by joining hands with the regime in Syria Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia organisation, had betrayed the axis of defiance which had been fighting a political war against the axis of moderation which has been working in Middle East in favour and on behalf of the Western powers like the United States which again wants to secure zionist interests of Israel.

Hezbollah, which enjoyed undisputed popularity among Palestinians till even last year became a veritable villain following the fall of Qusair. Its fall in the popularity scale from whopping 61 per cent to 43 per cent is not very surprising. Many in Palestine, especially in Gaza, today view Hezbollah's participation in Syrian conflict motivated by sectarianism rather than ideological. Few Palestinians today believe that the Lebanese resistance group still retains the will and ability to fight Israel.

"The group, which had previously been perceived as a 'source of pride' for all those fighting against Israeli aggression is now (seen) 'enmeshed in a bloody sectarian war and has the blood of too many Syrians on its hands.'" Hezbollah lost much of its credibility and legitimacy among the Palestinians.

Hezbollah-Hamas estrangement began to gain alarming proportion threatening to spiral downward into an outright hostility. Se quereller looked fast spinning out beyond any quick redemption.  

The turn of events in Egypt, providentially changed the situation; salvaged the worsening bickering from splitting a twenty-year-old alliance down the middle. The unceremonious manner in which President Mohamed Mursi was deposed and imprisoned, the national constitution of Egypt suspended, democracy in the country trampled by the heavy boots of the army dealt a body blow to Hamas. 

The coup in Egypt and moves to de-legitimise Muslim Brotherhood have left the Palestinian military organisation absolutely isolated — stripped of its most dependable partner in Middle East. Hamas has turned into a pariah and is in desperate need to revive and repair its ties with Hezbollah for survival. 

The Rafah tunnels between Gaza and Egypt has been closed down in the wake of a rumour that Hamas militants would pour into Cairo to fight for Mursi and Muslim Brotherhood. Anti-Hamas sentiments in Egypt have been on roil. Overnight, it has closed down all its establishments in Egypt and suspended all its political activities from the soil of the neighbouring country. Seemingly, the Palestinian outfit has lost Egypt and the loss isn't expected to be repaired for a long time in future. 

It is a setback Hamas isn't expected to come out of anytime soon and it couldn't have come at a worse time. With more and more Gulf countries unwilling to associate with militancy Hamas' isolation has become like a noose tightening around its neck. Supports for its movement are drying up faster than it had ever imagined. Pouring in of finance and logistics has stopped ever since it sided with the anti-Assad campaigns in Syria.

Hamas stands equally guilty of partaking in the sectarian butchery in Syria. The moral pulpit from where it sought to preach Hezbollah looks more than a mere façade. Its relevance and legitimacy as the front paw of Palestinians' struggle for freedom is in jeopardy. Hamas certainly needs Hezbollah by its side.

Hezbollah too isn't in any better situation. Its writ in Lebanon is on a decline. Seething and a sharply polarised country along sectarian line feels that Hezbollah has precipitated Lebanon's fault lines by fighting for the regime in Syria. It now faces the prospect of fighting for its survival in its home turf as anti-Assad forces have already opened a second front deep inside Lebanon. This fight will be grim and all out as it is aimed at keeping the Hezbollah militias engaged far away from Syria. 

Hezbollah is under attack. Its strongholds in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon are bombed. Its political hegemony in its own country is challenged. Lebanon is standing poised at the threshold of yet another war with itself as the nation stands divided into two equal halves in support and opposition of Hezbollah. 

Throughout history great powers have decimated, civilisations have withered and empires have falled primarily because of not being able to respond to needs of time. For Hezbollah and Hamas rapprochement isn't an option but a requisite that time has stipulated. If they respond well they shall survive else risk being dumped into the waste bins of history. 

The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman


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