Hamas has a new leader.
On Saturday, the Islamist terror group in Gaza announced that Ismail Haniyeh, the former Prime Minister of the Hamas government in Gaza and the man who said terror attacks on Israel should continue 24/7, had been elected as the successor of Khaled Mashaal, who had completed the maximum two full terms in office.
“The Hamas Shura Council on Saturday elected Ismail Haniyeh as head of the movement’s political bureau,” Hamas said in a statement on its website.
The 54-year-old new leader is as extreme as Mashaal, who lived in Qatar after his expulsion from Syria in 2011 and where he has assets worth an estimated $ 2,6 billion according to Globes.
Haniyeh is much “poorer” than Mashaal. His capital is estimated at only $4 million and he lives in a villa in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza while he owns several other homes in Gaza’s good neighborhoods.
The new Hamas’ head started his career as the spokesman of Sheihk Ahmed Yassin, the anti-Semitic spiritual leader of Hamas who was assassinated by Israel in March 2004.
He went to become the first Palestinian Prime Minister of Gaza after the 2006 election and first worked under PA President Mahmoud Abbas until Hamas violently kicked Fatah out of Gaza and took over the coastal strip southwest of Israel.
In 2013, Haniyeh was elected deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau and he worked with Mashaal on a new policy document that was released last week and has been falsely billed “Hamas new charter” by a significant part of the international media and even pro-Israel groups.
Some media claimed the language of the new policy document, which doesn’t replace the official charter, indicated that Hamas had become more moderate and would now be able to compromise with Israel.
In reality, however, Hamas used a bit less inflammatory and anti-Semitic language but stuck to its old objectives regarding the elimination of Israel and continues to encourage Palestinian Arabs to use violence to “liberate all of Palestine from the river to the sea.”
“Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine should be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” the document stated.
Khaled Mashaal was even more blunt last month when he said this:
“We were and we still are in an open war with [the] criminal enemy [Israel] It insists on the choice of jihad and resistance…[This choice] is Hamas’s greater and first strategy…This is Hamas. Hamas is not changing its skin.”
The change in the leadership of Hamas and the publication of the new policy document are primarily aimed at improving relations with the moderate Sunny Arab countries and Egypt in particular.
Hamas had become increasingly isolated over its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and its support for Salafist terror groups in Gaza and Islamic State branch Wilayat Sinai that operates in the Sinai Desert but is expanding to other areas in Egypt.
The new document therefore omits that Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood as the Hamas charter says.
“Hamas’ separation from the Brotherhood, is ‘a positive step’ to melt the ice in ties with Egypt, whose Rafah border crossing is Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip’s main gateway to the outside world,” according to former Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Oraby.
On Sunday, Egypt seemed to react to the publication of the Hamas’ document when it decided to re-open the Rafah crossing on the border with Gaza.
The border crossing will remain open for at least three days to allow stranded Palestinian Arabs to return home after the Rafah terminal had been closed for 55 days.
Hamas desperately needs better relations with Egypt after the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza exacerbated last month when the Palestinian Authority decided to withhold funds for Hamas; stopped paying Israel for the delivery of electricity and slashed salaries of its 60,000 employees in Gaza by 30 percent.
The PA wants to “dry up” all sources of funding for the Hamas government in Gaza, according to Dr. Ahmad Majdalani, who is a member of the PLO Executive Committee.
The PA apparently thought Israel would stop delivering electricity to Gaza, where power cuts are paralyzing the economy, causing an unprecedented environmental crisis. However, the government in Jerusalem has no interest in an increase of the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and last week urged the international community to take action over the snowballing crisis.
The PA measures, however, seems to be calculated and have to do with an ongoing power struggle over Gaza and with the new peace initiative by the Trump administration.
The PA wants to show Trump it differs from Hamas and is able to reunify the two Palestinian autonomous areas under the control of central government in Ramallah and is the right partner for the “peace process” Trump intends to revive.
The PA is also militarily challenging Hamas as was apparent Sunday when PA affiliated terror groups conducted a joint exercise in the Gaza Strip.
“The maneuver was conducted to display new artillery and missile tactics, and to ‘affirm the unity of resistance brigades on the battle field against the enemy,’” Ma’an News in Bethlehem reported quoting Abu Khalid, a spokesman for the terror groups.
“We are sending a message to the enemy that we remain persistent and are continuing preparations to follow in the footsteps of our martyrs on the path of resistance and struggle,” Khalid added, speaking of a future war with Israel.