Despite tensions between Hamas and Hezbollah over Syria, the lynchpin keeping the two allies relatively civil towards one another is their mutual hatred of Israel, according to a former Hezbollah official.
“What brings us together, in terms of our hostility toward the Zionist entity, is greater than a dispute over the […] situation in Syria,” former Hezbollah MP Hassan Hoballah, said Friday.
Hamas’ spokesperson in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, in a phone call with NOW Lebanon dismissed reports that Hamas had been kicked out of Lebanon, but didn’t attempt to downplay the friction between the two organizations.
“Of course, relations are not like they were in previous years,” he said. In addition, he condemned Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
“We are against [it], just as we are against any foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict.”
That includes intervention by Hamas, Baraka added, although there is a belief among many, including in Hezbollah, that Hamas’s claim that they have remained clear of the Syrian battlefields is false.
Dr. Yezid Sayigh, senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center and former negotiator with Palestinian Authority delegations in peace talks with Israel in the 1990s, told NOW that another reason for the frayed relationship is Hamas’s cozying up to Qatar.
“Clearly Qatar has pledged lots of assistance [to Hamas],” Sayigh told NOW. “It’s possible that there’s been some sort of quid pro quo.”
Sayigh also says that pressures within Gaza could be contributing to Hamas’s position.
“Having supported the Arab Spring in other countries, especially Egypt, I guess [Hamas] just found it awkward to be supporting the Assad regime, [especially] given that they’re trying to meet challenges in Gaza from people like the Salafists who are more openly supportive of the rebels in Syria.”
As for the Iran- Hezbollah-Hamas axis, Sayigh believes it has seen better days.
“It’s certainly been weakened,” he told NOW. “And it’ll be weakened further if the perception grows that this is basically a Shiite axis, or Shiite crescent, connecting the Shiites of Lebanon, Iraq and Iran with the Alawite regime in Syria. If Hamas is the odd one out, that would be very uncomfortable because they really can’t afford anything that would undermine their [alliances] with Egypt in particular, but also with the Saudis who are [still] upset about their takeover of Gaza in 2007. I guess they just don’t have the choice of staying in the Axis of Resistance when almost everyone else sees that in a sectarian way.”