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Hamas influence in the Middle East is on the increase, since it integrated itself into the political process by taking part in elections from 2005 onwards. Its influence on the Arab world is essential, because Hamas is a major player in Palestine, a region that is of paramount significance as the center of the Arab-Israel conflict. After Israel has established peace with Egypt and Jordan and with little activity taking place on the Syrian front, Palestine remains the main theatre for the Arab-Israel conflicts. Hamas won the Palestinian legislative polls in 2006 and took control of the Gaza Strip. It has continued to take a militant stand against Israel, winning an admiration from other like-minded groups across the Arab world and citizens alike. Therefore, its ability to galvanize a popular resistance against Israel and by extension the US across the region cannot be underestimated.
The popularity of Hamas is also on the increase in the wake of the Arab Spring popular uprisings that toppled secular governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Hamas is a disciplined religious movement when contrasted with the secular, but corrupt Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Arab countries’ governments. It, therefore, appeals to many people across the Arab world because of its effectiveness in providing social services and delivering the aid to the Palestinian population. Such an appeal can form the basis for galvanizing people in the region against a common cause; that is the US, which offers a support to the corrupt secular governments across the Arab world.
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The ability of Hamas to mount a popular resistance towards the US is further emboldened by the group’s connection with Iran. After winning the 2006 Palestinian Legislative polls that gave the group a mandate to form the government, the group faced the isolation from the international community. However, Iran stepped in to offer the group a financial and military aid. It, therefore, became a proxy of Iran. Iran and Hamas share some ideologies, including the destruction of Israel, hostility towards the US and establishment of the Islamic rule. With Iran’s financing and backup, the influence of Hamas in the Arab world and its ability to garner a popular support against the US are real.
However, Hamas has maintained minimal contacts with other likeminded groups in the Arab world, which limits its influence beyond Palestine. The threat of gathering a collective popular support against the US is not immediate.
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