MESOP BACKGROUNDER : Inside Hamas, a bitter and very personal battle for control”

(Avi Isacharoff, Times of Israel) – 23 March 2016 –

“[Yahya] Sinwar’s release from prison wrought a change in the structure of the entire leadership. Sinwar began asserting himself as Hamas’s Number One man in Gaza: One of the founders of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam military brigades, he had tried to scuttle the Shalit deal, even though it wound up securing his freedom after 22 years, because he felt it made too many concessions. That helped him solidify the respect of all Hamas’s members. Sinwar has worked to change Hamas’s priorities. For him, Gaza is not a stepping-stone in a wider strategy of taking over the West Bank and the PLO, as it is for [Khaled] Mashaal. Rather, Gaza is a separate and sanctified goal: the first and only entity where the Muslim Brotherhood’s doctrine held sway. The members of the political bureau abroad see a takeover of the entire Palestinian leadership as an end that justifies any means, including concessions in Gaza if required. Not so, for Sinwar. Another strategic issue on which the two camps are divided has to do with the clash of civilizations in the Middle East and the fight between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. While Mashaal and his group made clear their reservations regarding the ‘Shi’ite axis’ as far back as 2011, Sinwar and his comrades in the Gaza military wing refused to part ways with their friends in Tehran and Damascus.”