Khaled Meshaal and his colleagues came to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and his deputy at the Brotherhood's Mokattam headquarters to confirm that Hamas was not involved in killing Egyptian soldiers in the attack at the Egypt-Israeli border last Ramadan.
They also wanted to present a number of facts to the Brotherhood, so they could be conveyed to President Morsi.
Despite their honourable goal, one wonders if there was a more direct way to make Hamas’s case to relevant authorities in Egypt, and why the group did not agree to hand over Palestinians and Arabs living in Gaza to Egyptian authorities to end the case in cooperation and investigation, rather than intransigence and recklessness.
Hamas was very pleased when Mubarak’s regime fell, since the latter had put it under much political, moral and financial pressure. In practical terms, Egypt turned a blind eye to the tunnels under the border in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza to breach the siege by allowing food and necessary supplies through, to avoid an expected famine.
But Hamas had bigger plans than just smuggling food through the tunnels. The group, which dominates the Gaza Strip after it formed an independent government from the one in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and is seeking to monopolise Palestinian decision making and Palestinian institutions, perceived Egypt before the revolution as an obstacle to achieving its ambitions.
While Cairo moved in every direction to build Palestinian national conciliation and once again restore coherence and international status to the Palestinian cause, Hamas had many reservations and objections that blocked comprehensive Palestinian conciliation.
The group adopted the same position even after the Egyptian revolution and the ascension of a president who belongs to the mother Muslim Brotherhood group.
Ironically, Hamas before the revolution had much support and empathy among Egyptians because it represented the spirit of resistance and sacrifice for the sake of the liberation and independence of Palestine.
When Egyptians succeeded in overthrowing Mubarak’s regime, the situation gave Hamas more leeway. The regime that collaborated in the siege had vanished and the mother group was operating without restrictions, and eventually reached the presidency. This was an invaluable opportunity to reconstruct the relationship between Egypt and Hamas on a new basis, taking into consideration affiliation to the same school of thought and international organisation.
But Egypt’s actions as a state, whether under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) or President Morsi, remained committed to international and Arab criteria. The Rafah border crossing was only opened according to regulations and concessions for individuals, not goods.
Revolutionary Egypt made several attempts at conciliation, but Hamas was unresponsive and had too many reservations. The Palestinian front remained divided and fragmented.
It is noteworthy that Egypt is no longer interested in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, unlike under the previous regime; nor has it paid enough attention to the PA; nor is it making Palestinian-Israeli talks a goal in its relationship with the US. It has also greatly scaled back contacts with Israel. These are all developments that Hamas saw as valuable opportunities to make the most political gains from Egypt after the revolution.
Hamas’s main ambition was for Egypt to adopt the group’s main slogans in the conflict with Israel, sound a general alarm and allow jihad. However, the opportunity has so far been lost and the question is, why?
Doubtless, Egyptian solidarity with Hamas before the revolution no longer exists. There has been widespread anger because of the key role played by some Hamas members on the 'Friday of Rage' on 28 January, 2011, when they attacked Egyptian jails and freed Egyptian and Arab prisoners involved in criminal and even terrorist cases.
For the simple Egyptian citizen it was an assault and insult to the Egyptian state, and it can never be forgiven, whether it is Hamas or anyone else.
Meanwhile, there is a constant stream of news about Hamas involvement in various security incidents in Sinai.
Whether these reports are accurate or not, the Egyptian public psyche has been tainted with a sense that Hamas collaborated in attacks that threaten Egypt’s national security. The savage attack on 16 Egyptian soldiers during iftar (the Ramadan early evening meal) at the beginning of Ramadan last year was the height of tragedy.
While there is no official declaration of the identity and nationalities of these killers or their sponsors, news reports quoted senior officials and military sources asserting members of Hamas were involved in killing the Egyptian soldiers.
This has made all Egyptians view Hamas as the enemy and a threat, and the Egyptian army began working earnestly to shut down the tunnels to Gaza, to limit illegal smuggling of people and weapons.
Matters got worse as more reports emerged about a Palestinian document by Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claiming there are Hamas members inside Egypt whose sole goal is to protect President Morsi if he is in danger.
This made it seem as if Hamas was very close to becoming an armed militia that carries out illegal operations breaching Egypt’s sovereignty, and an insult to Egyptian police who are primarily in charge of protecting the president.
The entry of seven Hamas members via Cairo Airport, arriving from Syria and Iran, carrying documents and blueprints of vital locations in Egypt, who were interrogated and then deported to the Gaza Strip, added another intriguing layer to what was said about attacks on Egyptian prisoners and smuggling Egyptian and Arab prisoners.
Despite Hamas’s denials, the Egyptian public dismissed these denials because of the special relationship between the Brotherhood and Hamas, the Brotherhood losing popularity, and Brotherhood statements calling for arming of its members under the pretext of self-defence.
Accordingly, the Egyptian public believes Hamas and its armed cadres could become an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood, forming its own security wing.
While it is difficult to verify these news reports, Egyptians are inclined to view Hamas as a source of serious threat that cannot be ignored. The ball is in Hamas’s court to prove otherwise.