From JPost, 29 April 2011, by KHALED ABU TOAMEH:
No matter how one looks at it, the Palestinian reconciliation deal is a victory for Hamas.
...Moreover, the timing could not have been better for Hamas.
The Egyptian-sponsored deal came amid signs that Hamas was beginning to lose its grip on the Gaza Strip, as a result of the continued blockade and boycott by the international community.
Last month, thousands of Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Hamas security forces for the first time since the movement seized control over the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.
Many Palestinians, including Fatah, said that the confrontations reflected increased resentment of Hamas.
But the unity deal with Fatah will now help Hamas reassert its authority over the Gaza Strip. It will also help Hamas emerge from political isolation by turning it into a legitimate and key player in the international arena.
One of the biggest achievements for Hamas is the fact that the unity deal does not require it to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip. In fact, Hamas would be permitted to keep its security forces in the Gaza Strip, further tightening its grip on the area.
Nor does the deal require Hamas to accept the Middle East peace process or accept the two-state solution.
Hamas will be brought into the unity government as an equal partner.
Until a few days ago, Hamas and Fatah were detaining and torturing each other’s supporters.
For the past three-and-a-half years, security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad worked round the clock to eliminate Hamas’s presence in the West Bank.
Under the terms of the reconciliation accord, Fatah will have to release all “political detainees” belonging to Hamas. This will only help Hamas regain its strength in the West Bank.
The deal also allows Hamas to run again unconditionally in elections, as was the case in the 2006 parliamentary vote. There’s no guarantee that Hamas would not win again in the next elections, which are expected to take place within a year.
Hamas has been recognized as a legitimate partner and player not only by Fatah, but also by the most populous Arab country, Egypt.
The popular uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak out of office earlier this year has been nothing but a blessing for Hamas. The new Egyptian regime has since been working to improve its ties with Hamas through a series of goodwill gestures that include the reopening of the Rafah border crossing and permitting the movement to have its own “representative office” in Cairo.
Although some Palestinians remained skeptical about the prospects of the unity deal holding for a long period of time, many agreed that Hamas stood to benefit the most from the agreement.
See this TIP Timeline of Terror Attacks by Hamas Since Israel’s 2005 Gaza Withdrawal.