When the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a unity government in May, analysts noted that the reconciliation deal could imperil peace negotiations with Israel and international support for the Palestinians, especially since both Israel and the U.S. consider Hamas a terrorist organization (photo shows Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Fatah leader Nabil Shaath shaking hands in May). But, according to the AP, Hamas may have found a way to keep foreign aid flowing and prevent global isolation: refrain from participating in a future Palestinian government, ceding that role instead to "nonpolitical technocrats."
Why would Hamas consider such an approach? For one thing, the AP explains, Hamas leaders like the Syria-based Khaled Mashal understand "the price Palestinians would pay" if Islamic militants ran the new government. But there's another reason: Hamas believes that it's lost popularity among Palestinians since it began directly governing Gaza in 2007. Hamas officials, like political leaders the world over, are hearing criticism from all sides. Some Palestinians, for example, blame the group for not carrying out suicide bombings in an effort to gain international legitimacy, while others claim its rocket attacks on Israel have rendered Gaza more isolated and impoverished. Meanwhile, the significantly more popular Fatah, which controls the West Bank, has focused on state-building and the economy. The AP adds, however, that while Hamas might stay away from day-to-day governing, it will still try to "exert as much influence as possible" by maintaining its militia and fielding candidates for parliament and the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization.