Hamas chief won’t seek reelection

Movement's political bureau leader will not challenge two-term limit; Hamas official calls move “bold and sincere.”

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hams/Handout)
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hams/Handout)
Hamas confirmed Tuesday that its Damascus-based leader, Khaled Mashaal, will not present his candidacy in the next election for chairman of the movement’s political bureau.
Mustafa al-Liddawi, a former Hamas official, hailed Mashaal’s decision as “bold and sincere.” Liddawi, a former Hamas representative in Lebanon, said Mashaal had decided to pave the way for other members of the movement to “assume responsibility.”
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Mashaal was elected chairman of the bureau in 1996. The political bureau is the key decision-making body and the highest authority in Hamas.
The Damascus-based leader’s decision not to seek reelection came as a surprise to some Hamas officials.
One official said Mashaal had apparently decided to step down following sharp differences with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip over the movement’s future strategy.
In recent weeks, Mashaal was quoted as saying he favored a nonviolent intifada against Israel.
Over the past year, he met three times with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of efforts to end the ongoing dispute between the two sides.
PA officials said Mashaal had told Abbas he supported a temporary halt in terror attacks against Israel.
In a number of interviews to Arab media outlets in the past few weeks, the Hamas leader declared his support for a “popular resistance” against Israel.
But while Mashaal was talking about abandoning terrorism, Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip announced their movement would continue to stick to the armed struggle against the Jewish state.
Hamas’s top leaders in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, openly challenged Mashaal by calling for the continuation of armed attacks.
Haniyeh and Zahar are also opposed to Mashaal’s recent understandings with Abbas on a number of issues, including holding presidential and parliamentary elections in May.
Mashaal’s successor will be elected in a secret vote in the coming weeks, a source close to Hamas said. According to the source, hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israeli prisons and a number of Arab countries will cast their ballots.
At this stage, it’s not clear who will succeed Mashaal.
However, the source predicted that Haniyeh and Mashaal’s deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, would be the leading candidates.
Liddawi said in an article published Tuesday that Mashaal’s decision was a “great lesson for the Palestinian revolution at the time of the Arab Spring and the popular revolutions in the Arab world.”
In a separate development, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Tuesday that Abu Marzouk’s family had moved from Syria to Egypt.
The paper pointed out that Hamas leaders were no longer comfortable with living in Syria because of the mass protests against President Bashar Assad. Mashaal’s family recently moved to Jordan, the paper said.