(JPost) The honeymoon between Hamas and the Syrian regime is now officially over.
Since the eruption of the uprising against the Bashar Assad's regime nearly a year ago, Hamas had refrained from taking sides in the conflict.
Hamas's declared policy was that the movement does not interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries.
But for Hamas, Syria was not just another Arab country.
Syria was the only country that agreed to host Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and some of his top aides after they were expelled from Jordan and stripped of their Jordanian citizenship more than a decade ago.
Syria's decision to allow Hamas to set up base in Damascus was mainly designed to undermine the PLO, and not out of love for the Islamist movement or the Palestinians.
Syria's efforts to undermine the PLO go as back as the early 1980's, when Hafez Assad supported and later hosted senior Fatah officers who led a revolt against Yasser Arafat in southern Lebanon.
Since then, at least 10 other radical Palestinian groups have been given shelter in Syria, where they formed a "rejectionist front" opposed to Arafat and the PLO.
The "Arab Spring" has put the Palestinian groups, including Hamas, in a delicate situation.
On the one hand, the Palestinians have enthusiastically supported demands for regime change and reforms in the Arab world.
On the other hand, Hamas and the other Damascus-based Palestinian groups could not afford to be seen as supporting an Arab dictator who is massacring his people.
The first sign of tensions between Hamas and Assad surfaced a few months ago, when the Syrian authorities demanded that Mashaal follow suit with Hezbollah and publicly declare his backing for the Assad regime.
Mashaal's refusal to comply with the request turned him into persona non grata in Syria and forced him to start searching for a new home.
In recent weeks, Mashaal and most of the top Hamas leaders and their families have moved to Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and the Gaza Strip.
Until recently, Hamas had been careful not to come out against Assad in public as long as its leaders and offices were still in Damascus.
Hamas did not want to end up like Hezbollah, which has lost many points among the Arab and Muslim masses for siding with Assad in his bloody war against his people.
But now that Hamas has left Syria, its leaders are finally able to voice their true feelings about Assad.
Last Friday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh chose Cairo as the venue for expressing his movement's support for the Syrian people's efforts to get rid of Assad's regime.
Haniyeh said that Hamas "lauds the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform."
This one sentence was enough to signal the end of a long honeymoon between Assad's regime and Hamas.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Analysis: Syria and Hamas - end of a honeymoon