London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hamas has re-elected Khaled Meshal as president of its governing political bureau via its Shura Council, after private talks in Cairo that lasted until late on Monday night. A Hamas official in the Egyptian capital confirmed the decision, stating only ‘Meshal was reelected.’ He declined to add anything further regarding the manner in which the decision was made. Meshal succeeded Mousa Abu Marzouk as president of the political bureau in 2006, but has since stated that he does not wish to continue the role. Meshal first declared his intention to step down during a meeting of the organization’s Shura Council in Khartoum in January 2012. Prior to Meshal’s reelection, many within Hamas expressed a desire to see him continue in the position. Before the Shura Council made the decision late on Monday night, a source told Asharq Al-Awsat that some members within the Hamas leadership do not feel that Meshal can be adequately replaced. Paola Caridi, a journalist with extensive experience of Palestinian issues and author of a book on Hamas, told Asharq Al-Awsat that ‘Meshal’s reelection was not unexpected, especially after the latest developments. I would consider it a typical decision in a period of transition. Meshal will push Hamas along the path it followed in the last years, regarding the ongoing, unending reconciliation process with Fatah.’ She added that the decision to keep Meshal’s in place was driven in part by the situation in Gaza: ‘In terms of security, it is not . . . ‘wise’ to have the chief of the political bureau confined in the Gaza Strip, as would happen if the Shura council would choose Ismail Haniyeh. Meshal (and Moussa Abu Marzouq) have wider freedom of movement, and they both have better relations with countries like Qatar and Egypt.’ Some analysts also say that there was regional pressure on Meshal to accept a fifth term in office, with Turkey, Qatar and Egypt backing his leadership of Hamas. ‘The victory of Meshal was predicted for pressures either from Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, or from the interior of Hamas, its political bureau and Shura council in particular,’ Ibrahim el-Darawy, head of the Palestinian Center for political studies in Cairo told China’s Xinhau news agency.
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A post from September 2012 reported that Khaled Meshaal had decided to step down from his position as head of the Hamas political leadership.
According to a BBC profile, Mr. Meshaal (aka Khaled Mishal) joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971:
“Mr Meshaal was born in 1956 in the village of Silwad, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Meshaal has been increasingly important since Sheikh Yassin died. His father, like many other Palestinians, travelled to the Gulf emirate of Kuwait in the 1960s for work. His family followed after the area fell under Israeli occupation in 1967.At school, Mr Meshaal became involved in Palestinian and Islamic activism. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971. Mr Meshaal continued to take interest political Islam while studying physics at Kuwait University and he founded a student organisation called the List of the Islamic Right. After graduating in 1978, he spent a number of years teaching physics in Kuwait. In 1987, Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Gaza founded the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in response to a mass uprising against the Israeli occupation. Mr Meshaal became increasingly involved with Hamas over the next few years, leading what was known as the Kuwait contingent of Palestinians who lived and worked there.
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A post from May 2009 provides further detail on Mr. Meshaal’s early activities in the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite the characterization of Meshaal in the above report as a “relative moderate”, a post from October 2012 reported on a speech Meshaal gave in Cairo in which said that “Nothing will restore the homeland but jihad, the rifle, and self-sacrifice” and that Zionists are the enemies of Allah and of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and Abraham – the enemies of the Prophets, of the Messengers, of values, and of morality.’ A post from December 2012 reported on on the first visit ever to Gaza by Meshaal in honor of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas where he took the opportunity to reiterate a call for the complete destruction of Israel.