When crowds in Tahrir Square toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the Palestinian faction led by [Mahmoud] Abbas lost its main patron. Mubarak strongly favored Abbas’ secular Fatah party, and as an enemy of political Islam kept a tight rein on Hamas activists in the adjacent Gaza Strip, which they governed since kicking Fatah out in 2007. Then the Arab uprisings cost Hamas a vital ally: Until recently, [Hamas leader Khaled Meshal] lived in Damascus, but Hamas is moving its headquarters out of Syria rather than side with President Bashar Assad against his population. Analysts in Gaza say Iran last year slowed or even stopped its subsidies to Hamas as punishment for not backing Assad. Bottom line: both factions lost their main state supporters just as their own people pried themselves from Arab satellite news to insist that they be heard, too.
What Palestinians demanded was that Fatah and Hamas bury their differences and form a united front against the Israeli occupation. This the factions promptly agreed to do, in a series of meetings held – not by accident – in Egypt. The new government emerging in Cairo may be dominated by Islamists, but it has pushed both sides to make up and adopt the non-violent strategy against Israel, complete with negotiations.
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