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Mursi win to distract Hamas from unity, analysts say

June 27, 2012 1:32 P.M. (Updated: June 30, 2012 7:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Egypt under a Muslim Brotherhood presidency is unlikely to alter its foreign policy outlook, but could impact Palestinian politics by encouraging Hamas to seek international recognition, political analysts told Ma'an.

After Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi was announced the winner of Egypt's first democratic presidential vote, Hamas official Ahmad Yousef told Ma'an his election could help end the West's isolation of the movement.

The ongoing reconciliation efforts between Hamas and secular rivals Fatah are unlikely to go anywhere soon due to this development, political analyst Tall Ukal told Ma'an.

"I believe Hamas will fight for legitimacy and seek to represent the whole Palestinian people, leaving behind all the big slogans used before Mursi came to power," he said, referring to the party's professed commitment to implementing the May 2011 reconciliation deal.

Hamas will be motivated by the success of Egypt's Brotherhood -- its parent movement -- not just in securing a majority of votes, but its acceptance by the US and other world governments.

Hamas was shunned by the international community after it won Palestinian elections in 2006, and declined to change its official stance against recognizing Israel. Yousef reiterated this position this week, saying Hamas could still not accept this condition as it entails giving up Palestinian rights.

Meanwhile, Palestinian analysts do not see Egypt's foreign policy changing dramatically under Mursi, and stress the limitations he faces in improving the situation in the neighboring Gaza Strip.

"Mursi has won elections, but he still has major internal challenges to deal with as he will be using the old tools," Ukal said, noting that it might take years to see major changes to the country's foreign policy.

"In his speech, Mursi did not make any reference to the question of Palestine, and that is a negative indicator," the analyst said.

"A religious leader would not forget to talk about the question of Palestine in such an occasion. Furthermore, he asserted that he would adhere with previous agreements, and that prompted Israeli officials congratulate him," Ukal continued, referring to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Analyst Hani al-Masri noted that Egypt's military council still retains serious power, and any foreign policy changes will depend on the extent to which the Brotherhood is able to challenge the military.

"The military council controls both the foreign policy and the country’s economy. The army in Egypt will be a state inside the state," he said.

Lecturer in political science Ibrahim Abrash told Ma'an that Mursi's ability to implement improvements at Egypt's Rafah crossing with Gaza will depend on his ability to control Egyptian security services in the northern Sinai.

Even if he is able to improve the ability of Palestinians to cross through Rafah, the only open passenger terminal providing access to the outside world, this does not end Israel's coastal and air closure on the Gaza Strip, he noted.

Abrash said Gaza might hope for limited changes, including the delivery of more electricity from Egypt, and equipping the Rafah terminal for import and export of goods, now entirely dependent on Israel's closure regime.

According to political analyst Mustafa al-Sawwaf it is reasonable that Gaza's expectations are high.

The potential for serious improvement to Rafah, as well as improved economic trade, could have a positive impact on the coastal enclave, he said.
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