Reuters reports: Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal looked like a man at home in Cairo this week as he used the Egyptian capital to declare terms for a ceasefire with Israel, his confidence reflecting the historic changes shaping an Arab world more supportive of his cause.
In Cairo for talks on the Gaza crisis, the bearded Hamas leader in exile has been warmly received in a country where officials viewed his movement with suspicion bordering on outright hostility when Hosni Mubarak was in power.
In stark contrast to those days, a smiling Meshaal was photographed on Monday meeting President Mohamed Mursi, the head of a new Egyptian administration shaped by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ spiritual mentor. Mursi, unlike Mubarak, is taking a personal interest in truce talks Egypt is overseeing.
Behind the scenes, Hamas leaders are finding a very different attitude from the Egyptian mediators. In Mubarak’s days, the Palestinians often complained that Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who died earlier this year, would try to impose Israel’s terms on them.
“The Egyptian brothers in the intelligence service have always helped in truce matters, this time they are being more helpful because President Mursi is in charge,” said a source close to Hamas. “The former regime used to pressure us more than they did Israel,” the source said.
The changes buoying Hamas have started to become clear in the tone from other Arab states too – a delegation of eight Arab ministers arrived in Gaza on Tuesday in the latest visit to express solidarity with the Palestinians.
The shift marks a challenge to the policies of Western governments including the United States. They shun Hamas as a terrorist group, dealing instead with the Palestinian Authority, from which Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.
It also shows that public opinion is starting to have an impact on the foreign policies of Arab states long run by autocrats who have paid scant attention to the views of populations broadly supportive of the Palestinians.